Zeppelin descendants are defeated in the foundation dispute

lady justice

A statue of Lady Justice stands holding scales and sword. Photo: Arne Dedert/dpa/Symbolbild

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The Administrative Court of Baden-Württemberg has made a groundbreaking decision in the dispute over the million-dollar Zeppelin Foundation in Friedrichshafen. But that may not be the end of the litigation.

In the dispute over ZeppelinFoundation, the descendants of the famous airship pioneer suffered another defeat. The Administrative Court of Baden-Württemberg rejected an appeal by the plaintiffs against a first-instance court decision, as a spokeswoman in Mannheim said on Thursday. A revision was not admitted. According to the court, the plaintiffs can lodge a complaint with the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig against this non-admission (Az.: 1 S 1865/20).

In the dispute over the Friedrichshafen Zeppelin Foundation, the great-grandson of the airship builder, Albrecht Graf von Brandenstein-Zeppelin, and his son Frederic want to use a lawsuit to have the foundation in Friedrichshafen solve from the city hand. So far, however, it has not been about the matter at all, but only about whether the Brandenstein Zeppelins are allowed to complain about the matter at all. So far, the courts have denied them this so-called legal standing.

With its decision, the Administrative Court confirmed a decision of the administrative court Sigmaringen from January 2020. The reasons for the decision should be available by July at the latest. The lawsuit was directed against the country. The city of Friedrichshafen was involved in the proceedings as the sponsor of the Zeppelin Foundation. The decision of the Administrative Court was a great success for the city and the state, said a city representative.

The airship builder Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin founded the foundation in 1908. After the Second World War it was dissolved and the management of the assets was transferred to the city of Friedrichshafen. From the point of view of the two Brandenstein-Zeppelins this happened illegally. After the defeat before the Administrative Court, they are now considering further legal options, the plaintiffs announced on Thursday.

The dispute is about a lot of money. Because the Zeppelin Foundation owns 93.8 percent of ZF Friedrichshafen AG, one of the largest automotive suppliers in the world. In addition, the foundation holds a 100 percent stake in Zeppelin GmbH via Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH. The companies feed the foundation with their annual dividends and profit distributions. According to the city, 15.2 million euros flowed to the foundation last year, and in 2019 even 159.9 million euros.

The city of Friedrichshafen uses the money to support, among other things, work with children and young people as well as education and training. By the end of 2021, the Zeppelin Foundation should have reserves of a little more than 200 million euros. However, the annual financial statements have not yet been prepared.

The descendants of the famous airship pioneer Ferdinand von Zeppelin, on the other hand, want to revive the originally independent foundation – with the purpose at the time of promoting aviation. According to his own statements, Albrecht Graf von Brandenstein-Zeppelin wants to set up ecological aviation research in Friedrichshafen and found an air research center.