Heirs to German Industrial Fortune Face $6 Billion Tax Bill

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The heirs of billionaire Heinz Hermann Thiele may owe German authorities more than 5 billion euros ($6 billion) in inheritance taxes, potentially the largest such bill in the country’s history, according to ManagerMagazin.

Thiele’s assets were supposed to be folded into a foundation to reduce tax risks, but that wasn’t set up at the time of his unexpected death in February, the magazine reported Thursday, citing unidentified people close to the family.

Thiele, who was 79 when he died, amassed a manufacturing empire that included a 59% stake in brake-system manufacturer Knorr-Bremse AG and half of railroad-equipment maker Vossloh AG. His fortune was valued at $20.2 billion at the time of his death, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Thiele’s plan was to hand ownership of Knorr-Bremse -- his largest asset -- to his daughter, Julia Thiele-Schuerhoff, people with knowledge of the matter have said. She joined the board in 2016, the year after her brother Henrik left the company.

Thiele-Schuerhoff’s office declined to comment on the report when contacted by Bloomberg News.

The family has sufficient money and won’t need to sell stakes in Knorr-Bremse or Vossloh to finance the payment, the magazine said.

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