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It’s that time of year again: on January 23, 2013, the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting of Siemens AG was held at the Olympiahalle in Munich. And this occasion has inspired us to compile a photo gallery documenting how this yearly event has evolved over the years since the 1950s.
The first Annual Shareholders’ Meeting to take place after World War II was an extraordinary meeting held at the company’s Frankfurt office in late February 1948. “Not more than 40-50 persons“ were expected to attend, and local organizers were asked to ensure “that the building is well heated.“ The only item on the agenda was the election of Supervisory Board members, whose numbers had been decimated as a result of the war.
The following year, another extraordinary Annual Shareholders’ Meeting was held in Frankfurt/Main. Among the proposals made at this meeting was the suggestion that – in addition to the company’s traditional location in Berlin – Munich also be named a head office. The shareholders unanimously approved changing the bylaws to this effect.
The first ordinary Annual Shareholders’ Meeting of the post-War period took place in Munich on March 1, 1950. Shareholders were invited to the palace at Wittelsbacherplatz 4. Following the presentation of the financial statements, annual reports and reports of the Supervisory Board for the individual fiscal years under review, the actions of the Supervisory Board and the Managing Board were unanimously approved for the period from October 1, 1943 to September 30, 1947.
From 1951 to 1955 and again in 1957, the Annual Shareholders’ Meetings were held on the premises of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Munich, at Maximiliansplatz 8. In those days, the meetings lasted less than an hour, and the number of items on the agenda rarely exceeded ten.
The conference room at the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, located on the second floor of the building, accommodated about 100 people. Beginning in the late 1950s, a short film was shown to pass the time while shareholders waited for the meeting to be convened.
Starting in 1958, the Kleine Kongresshalle at the exhibition park located at Theresienhöhe 14 in Munich was the site of eleven Annual Shareholders’ Meetings. This convention hall was Germany’s largest facility of its kind at the time.
Documents relating to the organization of the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting of 1965 show that the convention hall seated about 850. From today’s perspective, the shareholders’ meetings in the 1960s were still quite small-scale events. All of the participants could be registered using “two typewriters and six electric adding machines.” And the entire group of “ladies and gentlemen involved in organizing the Meeting” could be transported in a single bus.
Starting in 1960, calls were repeatedly raised to return the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting to the city in which it had traditionally been held: Berlin. As Ernst von Siemens, then Chairman of the Supervisory Board, noted at the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting on March 16, 1965, “This request recurs as regularly as the tides. We’ve repeatedly told the shareholders in Berlin that an Annual Shareholders’ Meeting in Berlin is unfortunately very impractical at this time. As you know, flight connections are not always ideal at this time of year. What’s more, we have all our documentation here in Munich. The company is based in Munich and no longer in Berlin. Nothing can change that.”
As a concession to those hoping to return to Berlin, in the summer of 1963 an extraordinary Annual Shareholders’ Meeting was held in the city. One more Annual Shareholders’ Meeting and several informational events for Siemens’ shareholders followed in Berlin during the 1960s. The venue was always the Kongresshalle, a convention hall on John-Foster-Dulles-Allee, near the Brandenburg Gate.
A new record was set in the late 1960s, when more than 1,000 people attended an Annual Shareholders’ Meeting. Once again a new venue had to be found – this time, the Kongress-Saal of the German Museum in Munich. The number of private individuals in particular who were attending the meetings was continuously rising. One reason for this increase was that the company began issuing so-called employee shares to members of the Siemens workforce in Germany as of 1969.
At the same time, advances in electronic data processing were having an impact on the organization and procedures relating to the Annual Shareholders’ Meetings. A data processing system – a Siemens 4004/15, which was the size of a wardrobe – was first used in 1969 to ascertain the number of attendees and determine voting results. By way of comparison: at the beginning of the new millennium, some 50 personal computers and data servers were in use.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the Annual Shareholders’ Meetings generally lasted between 4.5 hours and 8 hours. A clear tendency could be recognized: growing numbers of institutional and private investors were making more and more remarks, which were becoming longer and longer.
With the Kongress-Saal at the German Museum bursting at the seams due to the continually increasing number of attendees, the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting was moved to Munich’s Olympiahalle in 1983, and the event has been held there ever since. The only exception was in 1997, when on the occasion of Siemens’ 150th anniversary the event was held in Berlin, where the company was founded.
In the meantime, the number of people attending the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting equals the population of a small city. In 2013, around 8,100 shareholders participated, with some 1,000 people working behind the scenes to ensure that the event proceeded smoothly.
January 24, 2013 | Sabine Dittler and Christoph Frank