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The Tragedy of Corporate House Cleaning- The Hans Gunzenhauser Story

November 3, 2016

Chapter 13 in the exclusive series for Dynamic Commodities- becoming a commodities trader

When I began working in the telex department delivering messages, I needed to memorize the initials and location of senior management, the traders, traffic and support staff. Most of the initials were two or three letters, but there was one steel trader who was different from the rest. He was the only executive who had four initials.

Hans Gunzenhauser was from Europe, probably Germany. He arrived in the United States during World War II. Hans traded steel and sat on the twenty-fourth floor, close to the telex room. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the executive who kept a meticulous office and was always in a starch white initialed shirt and tie with a perfectly pressed suit. His initials, HWAG on the messages were the easiest for me to learn as the four letters were not the norm.

Hans was a pleasant and grandfatherly man in his early sixties, while many were too busy and consumed in their business to acknowledge the delivery of a message, he always said thank you. He was polite, unassuming and while he was not a senior trader in the steel department he was a trader, none the less. Traders were the crowned princes of Philipp Brothers. Other than senior management a job as a trader was represented the pinnacle of success and lots of money.

When the second round of firings hit the firm, it was Hans’ turn to depart. He had spent decades at Philipp Brothers, and when informed of his termination he neatly packed up his office and went home. I was in the traffic trainee area when the second round of layoffs came, and while I knew almost all of those let go on that fateful day, I paid little notice to the departure of Mr. Gunzenhauser, or HWAG as I knew him.

A day or so after the departure of the next round of now ex-Philipp Brothers employees, a story started to circulate throughout the company. The destruction of careers and the family that many had known and depended on for years was a familiar theme, but the fate of Hans Gunzenhauser seemed to embody the dark cloud that had descended over the company. He went home the night of his final day at Philipp Brothers, had a fatal heart attack and died. A life without the business, the family he had come to depend on was too much to bear, and Hans sadly passed away instead of facing a future without the firm.

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Post Series: Origin Of A Commodities Trader

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