Harald & Felix Link Are Kindred Spirits
Helming Thailand’s storied B.Grimm, which has interests in energy, industry, healthcare, lifestyle, transportation and real estate, is the third-generation heir Harald Link who is both chairman and CEO. Though from a young age vacations to Thailand were frequent for the young Link, it was not until the late 1970s after earning an MBA from St Gallen University in Switzerland, that he moved here.
Widely admired today as one of the country’s leading businessmen, Harald admits his start at the company wasn’t easy. “When I joined B.Grimm I was the assistant to the managing partners, namely my uncle Herbert and my father,” he says. “I worked in human resources, then the mechanical business, then contracting and my responsibilities kept expanding. One challenge followed another. Coming from northern Europe and being thrown into the Southeast Asian culture also meant a lot of adapting back then.” One of the biggest challenges he faced was the recession during the late 80s. “In 1987 I was asked to become a managing partner and to get us through the crisis,” he recalls. “It was difficult but through team work we were able to weather the storm—and frankly, it was only at that point that I felt like I had really earned my salary.”
B.Grimm’s 140-year history in Thailand began in 1878 when German pharmacist Bernhard Grimm and Austrian Erwin Mueller opened what became the country’s official pharmacist to the Thai royal family. In 1903, Adolf Link was hired as a manager to help expand the growing business and later became partner and eventually sole proprietor. Following the outbreak of the First World War, his assets were seized and he and his family were sent to concentration camps in India. After World War II his son Herbert reopened the company while his other son, Harald’s father Gerhard, expanded the business in Germany and Europe. “Over the years, I simply tried to follow in the footsteps of my forefathers,” says Harald. “They always made sure everything they did was good for society and would make a contribution to its development. The business and social aspects always went hand in hand without compromise. I think this is the core of B.Grimm—its holistic business framework.”
Elevated to company chairman in 1988, Harald’s dedication and pioneering vision expanded all of the group’s traditional businesses to include new sectors such as energy, real estate, fast-moving consumer goods, shipping and much more. A philanthropist at heart with a scholarly mind and a keen interest in history and philosophy, he has committed himself to moulding a unique company culture which is built on strong values and doing business with a spirit of compassion. In this the company is guided by the four Ps, none of which stand for profit. In fact, B.Grimm focuses on positivity, professionalism, partnerships and pioneering spirit work, all coupled with principles of benevolence, empathy and equanimity.
I simply tried to follow in the footsteps of my forefathers. They always made sure everything they did was good for society and would make a contribution to its development.
— Harald Link
Given that this is a family business, it’s no surprise that deep down Harald has always hoped his children would one day take over and carry on the legacy. At first only his daughter Caroline, the eldest of his two children, joined the firm. It wasn’t until around three years ago that 37-year-old son Felix finally decided to work in the company. For a long time this move was not a certainty. “I did a few internships with B.Grimm,” says the young man. “But since my early 20s, I have been passionate about meditation and spirituality.” So much so that he spent years traversing the globe, including years in Buddhist monasteries in Nepal and attending Christian spiritual centres in Brazil and retreats in the United States. “Meditating is still my favourite thing to do in life,” he adds. “There is just something so powerful and compelling to me about the inner universe—it is much richer and more rewarding than the outside world.”
Of course, there’s no reason why he cannot pursue his nurturing of the soul whilst helping the family firm and today Felix serves as president of B.Grimm’s real estate division. “They welded me in with condominium projects,” he laughs. “Honestly, it has been great fun. I’ve refurbished a number of condos and managed to sell around 60-70 per cent of our stock.” His father who, he says, never stops finding new projects to take on, has also got him involved in their agricultural project in Malaysia, as well as reforestation projects in Thailand, all of which he speaks enthusiastically about.
Something of a self-confessed newbie to the corporate world, Felix admits the pressure is significant. “My father is a brilliant man,” he says with a smile. “I feel a big responsibility combined with a fear that I will not live up to what is required of me. This is a huge company that he grew and we have this wealth, which is a resource that could go into something constructive and so everything needs to be carefully managed. I want to be able to grow what is handed to me effectively because we have what is needed to help people and make the world a better place.”
Still learning on the job, Felix is very aware of the responsibilities on his shoulders and while he has gleaned a great deal from his father, he is very much his own man. Looking to the future he hopes to be able to incorporate mindful practices and spiritual sessions at the company. “Ideally I hope to reach a certain level of ease in my role as president but I also want to be able to do something with my passion and become more of a provider than a consumer,” he says. “For example, I want to make available to the staff of B.Grimm and the general public access to group healing sessions or inner development with the best spiritual teachers.”
There is just something so powerful and compelling to me about the inner universe—it is much richer and more rewarding than the outside world.
— Felix Link
Now that both his children are part of the B.Grimm team, Harald Link says he has found another level of happiness. “You know, when you become a parent that’s one type of joy you couldn’t have imagined,” he laughs. “And then, when your children show an interest and join the business, that is also another type of joy I couldn’t have imagined. This has given me a different purpose and direction now.” And just the thought of his grandchildren being able to celebrate 200 years of B.Grimm is one that naturally puts a smile on his face. “When I slow down and Caroline and Felix take over, I can spend more of my time with social work,” he says. “And of course, it will mean more time to enjoy my grandchildren as well [daughter Caroline has three children].” A man of varied interests, Harald is a board member of the Thai Red Cross, chairman of the Royal Bangkok Symphony Orchestra and also the founder of the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club and president of the Thailand Equestrian Federation. Other matters close to his heart are education and wildlife conservation, particularly countering the illegal wildlife trade. “It is in the highest long-term interest of humanity to preserve wildlife reserves as extensively as possible,” he says. Speaking of retirement, he adds musingly that perhaps Felix can help him learn to better nurture his soul.
In their down time the father-son duo enjoy nature, taking walks in forests and along the coast. The family’s history has long been tied to Thailand and father and son both hold Thai citizenship. In fact neither can see himself anywhere else. “If I had to move away, I really cannot say where I would like to go,” says Harald, while Felix, who has travelled extensively, says, “This is my home and there’s no place quite like it.”
- Photography Chaiwat Kangsamrith
- Styling Prisana Kittichotikul
- Outfit Hugo Boss, Rolo Ralph Lauren, Ermenegildo Zegna