(Pictured L-R: Wolfram Diener and Werner Dornscheidt; Photo Credit: Messe Duesseldorf, Andreas Wiese)
Werner M. Dornscheidt has left his mark on Messe Düsseldorf: its corporate strategy, its international orientation, its state-of-the-art premises, its digital transformation and its financial stability. After almost 17 years as President and CEO—and serving the company for about 37 years—Werner M. Dornscheidt will retire from his position on June 30. “Trade fairs are my life,” says Dornscheidt. “What we have built up together with my team over all those years benefits the company today. While current conditions are difficult, it is comforting to know that ‘my’ company is in good hands. The team is already busy working on a re-start and developing further digital additions to ensure that Messe Düsseldorf remains the successful, reputable company it is today. I have made my contribution.”
Profitable, subsidy-free management and financial stability are two trademarks of the Dornscheidt era. The Messe Düsseldorf Group closed the last full business year under his leadership with a sales increase of 28.7 percent to EUR 378.5 million (previous year: EUR 294 million). Group earnings after tax more than doubled in 2019 at EUR 56.6 million (previous year: EUR 24.3 million). In 2004 Dornscheidt took over as CEO of the company when the Messe Düsseldorf Group posted an ROI of 6.4 percent and a core capital ratio of 34.4 percent. Its ROI recently rose to 14.8 percent and its core equity ratio to 66 percent.
All these are the best prerequisites for mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Diener has been managing director operative business at Messe Düsseldorf since 2018 and will take over as CEO on July 1. “I am delighted at the trust placed in me,” says Diener. “We can perfectly build on Werner Dornscheidt’s achievements and master the challenges together. Here in Düsseldorf, we have an unbeatable brand profile that can be made even more successful in the future through the drivers of internationalization and digitalization. And what is equally important: a powerful team.”
Internationality as a Win-Win Situation
Dornscheidt has decisively advanced this topic. While Messe Düsseldorf operated 65 foreign representations for 104 countries in 2004, there are currently 77 foreign representations for 141 countries. The proportion of foreign exhibitors in Düsseldorf rose from 58 percent to 73.4 percent and the proportion of visitors from 34 percent to 37.1 percent. “All these international guests are good for the city,” explains Dornscheidt. According to a study by the Munich-based ifo Institute, Düsseldorf’s trade fair and congress business alone generates annual sales of around 2.98 billion Euros (in Düsseldorf: 1.66 billion Euros), secures 27,692 jobs (in Düsseldorf: 16,664) and generates additional tax revenues of 567 million Euros (in Düsseldorf: 36.3 million Euros). Numerous sectors of the economy are connected with the events, such as skilled craft businesses, trade fair construction companies, catering, gastronomy, the hotel industry, retail and public transportation. Dornscheidt therefore emphasizes: “It is all the more important that trade fair operations are resumed quickly. My team is currently working on concepts for the re-start and I know that it will succeed.”
Global Portfolios as Growth Engines
The strategic realignment of the company under Dornscheidt made a decisive contribution to international growth. Düsseldorf’s four No. 1 trade fairs with the highest number of events organized outside of Germany were grouped into the following “Global Portfolios:” “Processing & Packaging” comprising the packaging trade fair interpack, “Plastics & Rubber” encompassing the plastic trade fair “K”, “Health & Medical Technologies” including the medical technology trade fair MEDICA and “Metals & Flow Technologies” with the cable, wire and tube trade fairs wire and Tube—serving as the drivers of global expansion since that time.
On the Düsseldorf site, Dornscheidt focused on the development of the exhibition center—in terms of technology, functionality, comfort and architecture. After the more than 129,000-sq.ft. large Hall 1 was already put into operation in autumn 2019, the new South Entrance with its 65 feet high and 84,000 sq.ft. canopy will be completed this year. “Just in time for the new start of the trade fairs in autumn, Messe Düsseldorf will come up with a new architectural highlight,” says Dornscheidt. Until the lockdown in March, the adjacent Hall 1 was fully booked from the very beginning.
Pioneer of Digital Messe Düsseldorf
At the same time, Dornscheidt also drove the further development of digital presentation possibilities. “On our online portals, our trade fairs have long been in operation 365 days a year,” he says. Here, Messe Düsseldorf offers its exhibitors the possibility to present themselves and their products in a multi-media format and to make contact with other industry representatives. Messe Düsseldorf will continue to make its customers’ content more attractive and user-friendly. The digitalization of the trade fair format itself has gone hand in hand with the digital transformation of the entire company. “This pays off both during and after COVID-19,” adds Dornscheidt.
Projects of the Heart: “Deutsches Haus” and SAVE FOOD
In addition to the actual trade fair business, Dornscheidt has set an example with two projects in particular: The German Houses during the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the SAVE FOOD initiative. Twenty years ago, Dornscheidt personally acquired the contract for the German House at the 2000 Games in Sydney from the then National Olympic Committee. Under his management, the German House was continuously developed on behalf of Deutsche Sport Marketing and is today a permanent fixture in the German Olympic and Paralympic family.
On the occasion of interpack 2011, he founded the SAVE FOOD initiative together with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which was soon followed by the United Nations Environment Program. The aim: to combat food losses in developed and less developed countries with the means of the economy. More than 1,000 companies, research institutions and non-governmental organizations now support the initiative. Dornscheidt explains, “When you have been in the trade fair business for so long and have seen the world, you cannot close your eyes to social problems. It doesn’t help to talk, you have to do something!”
Perfectly Positioned for the Future
In future, Diener and his team will be responsible for Messe Düsseldorf. Erhard Wienkamp (managing director of fair management) and Bernhard J. Stempfle (managing director finance & technical operations, digital strategy & communication) will complete the Board of Managing Directors. “Markets are shifting, the world is getting more international, digital and complex,” says Dornscheidt. “The COVID-19 pandemic brings unprecedented challenges. Looking back on my many years of trade fair experience, Wolfram Diener, Bernhard Stempfle and Erhard Wienkamp are the ideal trio to steer Messe Düsseldorf through the corona crisis and place it in pole position for the future.”