Standard electrical system Lorenz

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Standard Elektrik Lorenz AG

legal form Corporation
founding April 1958
resolution 1992
Reason for dissolution Break up / change of name
Seat Stuttgart - Zuffenhausen
management CEO


Number of employees
  • approx. 20,260 (1958)
  • approx.37,340 (1965)
  • approx. 33,000 (1976)
  • approx. 32,000 (1985)
  • approx. 305 million DM (1958)
  • approx. 1 billion DM (1965)
  • approx. 2.7 billion DM (1976)
  • approx. 5.5 billion DM (1985)
Branch Electrical engineering

The Standard Elektrik Lorenz AG (SEL) was a German manufacturer of electrical engineering based in Stuttgart - Zuffenhausen .

The company belonged to the American conglomerate International Telephone & Telegraph Corporation (ITT) and was created through the merger of C. Lorenz AG with Standard Elektrik AG . The product range ranged from telephones , teleprinters and fax machines to radio and information technology . For private customers, the company mainly produced entertainment electronics under the “Schaub-Lorenz” brand, and from 1961 also under the “Graetz” brand after taking over the company of the same name. However, a significant part of the business was in the area of ​​government contracts. In addition to devices in the field of communications technology for the German Federal Post Office or to equip authorities and the armed forces , Standard Elektrik Lorenz developed and produced signal, control and safety technology for rail traffic , as well as aerospace technology .

The two parent companies were the successors of a number of well-known companies that went back to the founding years of the German electrical industry , which ITT had taken over in rapid succession from the 1930s. After reconstruction in the post-war period and a longer period of growth, Standard Elektrik Lorenz was one of the ten largest companies in the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1960s and 1970s. After the end of the upswing, ITT sold the company to the French Compagnie générale d'électricité (CGE) at the end of 1986 , where it quickly lost sales and size due to scandals, drastic market changes and wrong business decisions. From 1987 it was split up into individual areas, the majority of which were sold to new owners or dissolved.

A core company with a focus on communications technology remained under the umbrella of the telecommunications equipment supplier Alcatel NV, which was founded by CGE , and operated as Alcatel SEL AG from 1992 onwards . At the end of 2006, after the parent company, which had meanwhile been renamed Alcatel SA , merged with Lucent Technologies, Inc. , the German subsidiaries brought in on both sides were merged into Alcatel-Lucent Deutschland AG . After a further economic decline, the Alcatel-Lucent group formally relocated the management of the business of its foreign subsidiaries to France in 2011, which had already been largely determined by the group headquarters. The company is now part of the Finnish company Nokia , which took over the entire Alcatel-Lucent group through a share swap in early 2016 .


Foundation and history

C. Lorenz AG and Standard Elektrik AG , the two parent companies that were merged by their parent company International Telephone & Telegraph Corporation (ITT) based in New York City when the company was founded in April 1958 , both had their headquarters in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen and were first a few years earlier each emerged from a merger of ITT holdings.

Schaub-Lorenz production plant in Rastatt , 1959

C. Lorenz , founded in Berlin as a telegraph construction company in 1880 , did not move to Stuttgart until after the Second World War . A reaction to the Berlin blockade , which had cut it off from the rest of Germany with its original headquarters and main plant. The production of the subsidiary G. Schaub Apparatebau, which was taken over in 1940 , was completely destroyed shortly before the end of the war in the air raid on Pforzheim on February 23, 1945 . During the reconstruction, the companies that had initially appeared independently on the market as manufacturers of radio equipment at the end of the war moved ever closer together. In 1952, the technical range of types was interlinked and a joint sales organization was formed under the umbrella of the subsidiary specializing in radios. In October 1954, "Schaub-Lorenz" was established as the new common brand name and the radio business was integrated as a department in the larger C. Lorenz , which was also represented in numerous other areas of electrical engineering in addition to entertainment electronics .

Even before the First World War , C. Lorenz had taken over well-known telegraphy and electronics pioneers, such as the telegraph construction company CF Lewert in 1893 , whose company history stretched back to its founding as a workshop in 1800. In 1915, W. Gurlt Telephon- und Telegraphenwerke GmbH followed , which was approved as a supplier to the army administration. In 1923, C. Lorenz became a co-founder of Signalbau AG, Dr. Erich F. Huth . By around 1929, however, the Dutch Philips took over all the shares and C. Lorenz got at the center of a crippling legal dispute with Telefunken . With its extensive patent rights and taking advantage of international agreements such as the World Radio Treaty , Telefunken held a monopoly in Germany for the construction of radio tubes . When the Dutch tried to circumvent the import ban via a German subsidiary and penetrate Telefunken's home market, Telefunken responded immediately with legal means. The result was a standstill and sales ban for large parts of the Lorenz radio production. Looking for a way out, Philips sold its shares around 1930 to Standard Elektrizitäts-Gesellschaft (SEG), a holding company of the American International Telephone & Telegraph (ITT), which had recently taken over the international business of Western Electric . With C. Lorenz and a series of other takeovers, ITT further expanded its position as the new heavyweight in the European electrical industry. Smaller German companies, such as Ferdinand Schuchhardt AG with the brand "Allradio", were dissolved and their patents, employees and means of production transferred to C. Lorenz .

Under its founder and president Sosthenes Behn , ITT then promoted the development of their daughters into arms factories . Behn financially supported the rise of Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP . Later he was considered an American patriot who had been honored with the highest honors and promoted to colonel in military service for his country during two wars. His contacts with the Nazi government were businesslike and reasonable efforts to protect the property and interests of his shareholders. What is certain, however, is that he was the first American industrialist to be received by Hitler in Berchtesgaden in 1933 . Hitler's rise turned the arms industry into huge business across Europe, and Behn's ITT was involved in it in all countries simultaneously. Various historians speak of financial support from the SS under Heinrich Himmler and of intimate relations with the Third Reich during the Second World War. He was particularly interested in the Focke-Wulf aircraft factory . In the course of 1938 there were several personal meetings between Behn, his German deputy Henry Mann, and Reich Aviation Minister Hermann Göring , who was supposed to mediate the deal. Behn was finally able to secure a 28% stake. The shares held by the end of the war C. Lorenz , although they could produce no experience in the construction of aircraft, but as a pioneer in the field of aeronautical radio , radio navigation , radio location and especially instrument landing systems until shortly before the war into a leading global supplier to the aviation developed would have.

Fitted base plate of a Model 36 telephone from Mix & Genest, produced after the end of the war

The Standard Elektrik AG in 1956 through name change from the standard electricity company emerged (SEG). The latter had served International Telephone & Telegraph since 1929 as the management holding company for its numerous German holdings. The company structure changed in the post-war reconstruction. The two manufacturing subsidiaries Mix & Genest AG and Süddeutsche Apparatefabrik (SAF) were merged into the holding company. The specialist for signal transmission and low-voltage technology Mix & Genest was founded in 1897 - like C. Lorenz - as a telegraph construction company in Berlin, acquired by ITT around 1930 and relocated to Stuttgart in the course of the reconstruction in 1948. The production of radios, loudspeakers and amplifiers under the “Emgefunk” brand with distribution through the Hansawerke was discontinued as early as 1927 in order to concentrate primarily on telephones, payphones , private branch exchanges for large companies and switching centers in post offices.

The war and dismantling losses after the war were considerable, but at the same time the conditions for economic recovery were more than favorable. As daughters of an American group, the companies were considered politically unencumbered. Its main shareholder settled the purely financial debt, which had accrued in Reichsmarks , by means of a capital increase and payment in US dollars . Subsequently, ITT even succeeded - albeit only in 1968 - in receiving compensation for war damage from the American government: a sum of 17 million dollars, on the grounds that the factories in Germany were American property.

Years of growth (from 1958)

Template for flow charts , accessories for SEL calculator "ER 56"

The impetus for the development of electronic computing systems was an order from the mail order company Quelle for automatic order processing and stock accounting in 1955. On St. Nicholas Day 1956, the first Quelle system was completed as what was then probably the largest specialized data processing system in the world according to the patent application sponsored by Gustav Schickedanz . The periphery with 50 data acquisition places and associated printers for the material withdrawal slips and invoices was developed under the direction of Helmut Gröttrup . In 1958, the Stuttgart computer science plant , which had been founded under Standard Elektrik AG , presented the "electronic calculator ER 56", the first fully transistorized computer system from Europe , by Karl Steinbuch with the assistance of Hans-Joachim Dreyer and Rolf Basten . After the ER 56 was presented at the Hanover Fair in 1958, Quelle was upgraded again. The "IT system source" finally automated order processing, storage and invoicing for over 29,000 different items at this point in time.

Steinbuch, meanwhile technical director and head of the company's central research, resigned his job at the end of 1958 in order to answer a call from the Technical University of Karlsruhe for a position as professor and institute director. In 1960 an ER 56 was installed in the SEL data center, another as a test system for automating the postal check service at the Deutsche Bundespost. Karl Steinbuch immediately wanted a system as a university computer for his institute at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. In 1962 he received the funds for procurement from the German Research Foundation . In 1961 the airline SAS put a system for flight weight recording and load distribution ( weight and balance ) into operation with a computer system built under license called "ZEBRA" based on the ER 56 with several input stations. The structure of this system is said to have turned into a fiasco. In any case, Standard Elektrik Lorenz devoted himself increasingly to the development of peripheral devices and stopped manufacturing computer systems in 1964 at the latest. Two fully functional ER 56s, together weighing 25 tons, value around four million DM when new, suddenly appeared at the Stuttgart Art Academy in early 1972 . They had been used internally at Standard Elektrik Lorenz , written off and given away to guest lecturer Ernst Knepper to serve as an aid for architects, designers and artists in the development of models for environmental planning . Knepper had also immediately brought her to the academy overnight with borrowed trucks, forklifts, pulleys and the active support of sympathizers. Their rector Herbert Hirche responded with a lawsuit for trespassing and asked Knepper to transport the unwanted donation away. Shortly afterwards, the Ministry of Culture also sued for removal.

Community switch SEL "1/2 GTo 53" (Year 1969), for telephone connections of the Federal Postal

Government contracts played a major role in the growth of Standard Elektrik Lorenz . Like its predecessors since the 19th century, as a contractor for the Royal Prussian Telegraph Directorate and later for the Reichspost , Standard Elektrik Lorenz, as an official construction company, was regularly included in public contracts for the German Federal Post Office . The company supplied telephones and payphones, which were a particular strength of Mix & Genest . As the successor to the "MünzFw 56" long-distance telephone, which was introduced in 1956, the successor, also known as the "Europa-Münzer", was developed in 1972 and finally the NT2000 "electronic coin-operated telephone for intercontinental direct dialing". SEL presented the device, also known as the “world coin”, at the 1975 international radio exhibition in Berlin and it was introduced as “MünzFw20” at the Deutsche Bundespost in 1976. During its development, great importance was attached to the fact that it could be adapted quickly and inexpensively for use in other countries. At the Austrian Federal Post Office trials under the name "NT200A" followed. Above all, however, the company supplied transmission technology and components for the switching centers . The so-called Röchel circuit was a development of the SEL and for some time a unique selling point of the PBXs it produced.

"VHF handheld radio speaker KL 9" or SEL "FuG 6" for BOS radio and auxiliary services. The first portable handheld radio after World War II

Standard Elektrik Lorenz delivered two-way radios to authorities and organizations with security tasks for the so-called BOS radio and to the Bundeswehr , such as B. SEM 25 and SEM 35 . This was followed by SEM 52 A , SEM 52 S , SEM 70 and SEM 80/90 . The SEM 52 A, introduced in 1971, was the first fully transistorized handheld radio in the army .

On the basis of the signal relays developed by SEL , the transport sector was the largest supplier of the Deutsche Bundesbahn for relay interlockings , such as the "Lane Plan Pushbutton Interlocking Lorenz Sp Dr L20" and "Lane Plan Pushbutton Interlocking Lorenz Sp Dr L30", alongside Siemens AG from the 1950s onwards . In addition, the design was also exported to Austria and at ITT Austria , the local branch of the parent company, as "Sp Dr L2" to the standard variant of the Austrian Federal Railways . After a standardization with the systems built by Siemens, requested by the German client, the "Sp Dr L60" was manufactured. There was a similar market distribution for equipment with Indusi devices for inductive train control. From the 1970s onwards, SEL pushed ahead with the development of electronic control and safety technology, line train control (LZB), SelTrac automated operational sequence control , electronic interlocking (ESTW) and European Train Control System (ETCS) in Germany.

In 1961, SEL AG took over the radio and television producer Graetz KG, with headquarters in Altena and thirteen other locations, including a larger plant in Bochum . Together with the picture tube plant in Esslingen am Neckar and the production facilities for the Schaub-Lorenz brand, the company initially belonged to the SEL group of companies “Audio Video”, later “Audio-Video-Electronics”. However, growth soon reached its limits here. In 1966 , Standard Elektrik Lorenz suffered a loss of 20 million German marks in view of a stagnating market for radio and television sets with sales of 1.08 billion. According to its general director Hermann Abtmeyer , the consequence for the administration of the company was to act quickly and hard. Graetz had already got into a crisis at the beginning of the 1960s and could only survive because Abtmeyer believed that he had to further expand the ITT empire. The acquisition was only partially approved by the SEL management. From then on, television production was concentrated in Bochum, capacity in Pforzheim was reduced, and the plants in Altena and Dortmund were shut down. The dividend for 1966 remained unchanged at 16 percent, after the dissolution of 13 million reserves and taking tax savings into account, it finally came to 23 million marks, but was used for a capital increase at a ratio of 1: 5 to par. After the number of employees had decreased by around 9,000 from 37,300 in 1965, the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit reported in 1968 that Standard Elektrik Lorenz had "sweated well" and was achieving better results again.

Standard Elektrik Lorenz developed the technical requirements and supported the establishment of the European Organization for the Safety of Aviation (EUROCONTROL). This was a continuation of longstanding traditions. As a radio pioneer in the 1930s, the parent company, C. Lorenz , laid the foundations for the development of air traffic control technology. At the beginning of the 1970s, Standard Elektrik Lorenz developed the SETAC precision approach procedure . SEL was significantly involved in numerous projects of the German Research and Research Institute for Aerospace (DFVLR), today the German Aerospace Center . In the field of space electronics, for example, on the AZUR satellite project ( telemetry ), the Helios probes (command system) and the reusable space laboratory Spacelab (data acquisition / command terminal). Under the direction of Kurt Jekelius, "Division V", for defense and space travel, developed into the only division of the SEL that was never "in the red" even when the company began to decline. In 1976, SEL AG employed about 33,000 people and achieved sales of DM 12.6 billion, with DM 357 million in share capital . This made SEL one of the ten largest companies in Germany.

In 1977 and 1978, Standard Elektrik Lorenz contributed to a breakthrough in fiber optic technology in field tests by the Deutsche Bundespost and, with the image coding system used for this, was also able to carry out the first digital transmission of image signals via the German-French communications satellite Symphonie .

The end of the "Geneen Era" (1978)

Until 1959, the parent company had initially only exercised loose leadership over the largely autonomous sub-companies. As part of a so-called "de facto group relationship", two seats on the SEL supervisory board were reserved for the American representatives of International Standard Electric Corporation (ISEC), the foreign holding of International Telephone & Telegraph (ITT), which holds 93.36 percent of the share capital in Standard Elektrik Lorenz AG held. Otherwise, the 14-person, purely German executive board had a free hand. In the 1960s, a large degree of autonomy was retained, but it was increasingly subordinated to the central control from New York or its European agency ITT-Europe (ITTE) in Brussels . Monthly meetings with the American ITT leadership under the direction of its President Harold Geneen were sometimes described as strange or threatening stagings in darkened halls and an atmosphere artificially "hypothermic" by air conditioning. Geneen saw it as the prime duty of an executive to be “available at all times”. This applied to air travel to the European or world headquarters, but also to return visits by the Americans, both at the company location and occasionally in the private apartments of the executives. The central control instrument was the profit forecast, the fulfillment of which, but above all the failure to do so, had to be explained to him personally in strict interrogation in front of the assembled management team. Such meetings usually lasted from ten o'clock in the morning until two or three o'clock at night. The word “Management by Meetings” made the rounds among affected employees. Those who did not reach their target were fired or banished to an outpost of the ITT empire. For putting up with such treatment and not switching companies, ITT paid its top managers about ten percent higher salaries than the industry average. For some, however, it may also have played a role that ITT executives could feel they belonged to an elite that distinguished itself by being able to cope with the special conditions. In addition, by pointing out that ITT is “different” from other companies, it was possible to avoid a possibly unpleasant comparison with the competition at any time.

The so-called "Geneen Era" came to an end with massive damage to the ITT's reputation . For years, the company had preferred to be anonymous. The name International Telephone & Telegraph Corporation was deliberately copied from the American American Telephone & Telegraph Corporation (AT&T) when the company was founded by Sosthenes Behn . Confusion by the simple “man on the street” was definitely welcome. In the following years, the names of the respective subsidiaries were more familiar to the general public. That changed suddenly in the early 1970s. Millions of citizens in America and Europe, who had not known what to do with the three letters of the abbreviation, suddenly associated terms such as “corruption”, “kidnapping”, “secret service” or “coup”. In view of the rapid succession of takeovers of the increasingly powerful corporation, several anti-trust proceedings were running in the United States. When these were jointly and surprisingly discontinued through a settlement that was favorable to the company, rumors arose that the influential ITT leadership had "bought" this outcome through political donations. Most notably, ITT has pledged $ 400,000 to fund the Republican National Convention , the upcoming Republican Party convention under the presidency of Richard Nixon . In addition, more and more new details became known, according to which ITT had also exerted political influence in other countries and even participated in secret operations of the CIA . Apparently, the ITT had approached the US foreign intelligence service with very concrete plans to prevent President Salvador Allende from holding another term in Chile . Allende had begun nationalizing key industries in the country, in which ITT was instrumental. Allende's party was able to win significantly more votes in the spring elections, but it was overthrown before the end of the year in the 1973 coup in Chile .

The offer of a party donation, on condition that the anti-trust proceedings against ITT are terminated, could not be proven to Harold Geneen and it was only in 1976 that the company admitted to having financially supported political opponents of the Chilean president. In view of the public debates on this and other questionable interference by the ITT in world politics, Harold Geneen was urged by his supervisory board to take over its chairmanship from 1978 and to leave the active management of the company to the previous CFO Lyman Hamilton.

Reorganization and failures (1979–1985)

ITT Schaub-Lorenz "RC 550 automatic", cassette recorder , mid-1970s
Ultrasonic TV remote control from the brand "ITT Schaub Lorenz", around 1976

In 1979, the American parent company restructured the production and sales of consumer electronics. As "audio-video electronics" with its own headquarters in Pforzheim , it largely separated the area from Standard Elektrik Lorenz AG and took more direct influence from its headquarters. The development from a national manufacturer to cross-border cooperation with the purchase of components from international suppliers was further strengthened. The product range, including televisions, radios, car radios, cassette recorders, world receivers and loudspeaker boxes, was henceforth marketed under the brand name ITT Schaub-Lorenz . Only the name of the second brand Graetz remained unchanged. At the International Radio Exhibition 1983 in Berlin, ITT Schaub-Lorenz presented the world's first television with digital signal processing , the "ITT Digivision". The basics of the technology came from Ljubumir Micic , a Yugoslav engineer who had developed it in Freiburg for the company Intermetall , another German subsidiary of the ITT Group. Engineers regarded the device as a technological milestone and the chip manufacturer Intermetall negotiated with television manufacturers around the world who were very interested in saving the number of components used in their production through digitization and thus significantly in time and costs. For the consumer, however, the technology was initially only recognizable by its high price. The ITT Digivision cost around DM 2,700 when it was launched in November 1983. Today, adjusted for inflation, this corresponds to almost EUR 2,570. Significant improvements in the picture and sound quality and falling device prices were only achieved by the consumers through the increasing competition from Asia, especially from Japan , which was able to take away from European industry first the mass business and soon also the technical pioneering role and quality leadership .

In 1981, the "audio-video electronics" division announced that it would enter the small business computer business on a large scale. The American parent company had already tried the “ITT 2020” in Europe in 1979. It was a replica of the successful Apple II , for which she had acquired a license from Apple Computer . However, sales of this model were slow and were completely discontinued when Apple launched the Apple II Europlus model on the European market. Two years later, it was left to the German subsidiary to take on the leading role in the group for this area at the Pforzheim location. The small computer system “ITT 3030” presented in Munich in October 1981 was a beacon of hope . By the end of 1983 a market share of 25% in Germany and 15% in Western Europe should be achieved. Standard Elektrik Lorenz did not bring much more to the project than its good reputation . The hardware had been designed by Steinmetz-Krischke Systemtechnik in Ettlingen based on the 8-bit Zilog Z80 microprocessor . Efforts to develop a separate operating system "MOS" (Machine Operating System) for this did not lead to success. MOS would have forced its customers, most of whom were already used to CP / M standards, to rethink a few points. The development time was too short to eliminate all defects before the release and the software used too much of the precious memory . The trade press reported benevolently about the design, the modular structure and the speed of operation of the first prototypes , but also spoke of such significant deviations from the “state of the art” that they “affect the reputation of a company with international standing”. SEL eventually bought the British software house Computer Analysts and Programmers Ltd. (CAP) Copy rights for the operating system "BOS" (Business Operating Systems) developed in London since 1975 in the versions BOS-5, MBOS and BOS-Net. The equipment was produced abroad through contract manufacturing and for sales, in addition to the SEL system partner network , the company wanted to focus on franchising , with young professionals who wanted to set up their own business without a large amount of equity . The device was able to establish itself on the market - not least again through public contracts - as a work or learning tool for schools. The high expectations were clearly missed.

Under its CEO Rand Araskog , the ITT management also ordered a comprehensive reorganization of the SEL communications technology division. The structures that had grown up to the beginning of the 1980s were considered to be unique in terms of their complexity in view of the multitude of international interdependencies, and insiders could hardly see through them. During the ongoing changes in the group through new acquisitions, this was overlooked as long as the network was functioning. In the meantime, however, the situation had changed. Under Harold Genen's successors, the expansion through acquisitions stopped and the challenge was to consolidate the extremely versatile conglomerate and to prepare the individual areas for increasingly tough competition on the world market and the increasing reluctance of public clients to spend. At Standard Elektrik Lorenz, improving efficiency in order to reduce costs, but also to avoid duplication and often mutual hindrance of departments with overlapping responsibilities, was urgently needed. The matrix structure that was subsequently introduced at SEL was considered to be trend-setting and received some attention both from other large companies with similar challenges, as well as from the business literature. It was considered a prime example of the product-oriented alignment of a functional organization. In practice, however, the new structure did not prove itself and was only valid for a short period of time for various reasons.

Shortly after the start of the Christian-liberal coalition at the end of 1982 ( Kohl I cabinet ), the new Federal Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Christian Schwarz-Schilling, announced that he would invest billions in building a German fiber optic network and made a binding commitment to industry between 1985 and 1995 Remove at least 100,000 kilometers of cable every year. The plans of the poorly prepared large German cable manufacturers AEG , kabelmetal electro , PKI (Philips Kommunikation Industrie), Siemens and Standard Elektrik Lorenz to jointly build a new factory in Berlin as the Society for Fiber Optic Technology (GFL) failed due to resistance from the Federal Cartel Office . In particular, Chemitronic GmbH , a subsidiary of Wacker Chemie , intervened because it was hoping to gain access to its patents from ongoing negotiations with American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) and was already pursuing concrete plans to set up its own production at the Burghausen plant. At SEL , it was finally decided to prepare for large-scale industrial production in the cable factory at the headquarters in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. 50,000 kilometers of glass fiber should be produced per year. Up until the commissioning of the production facilities, however, Post Minister Schwarz-Schilling had made the decision to continue using copper instead of fiber optic cables for the cabling for radio and television reception, contrary to both expectations and recommendations from industry. Instead of delivering to the Bundespost according to a fixed key, the production had to be offered on the world market. In order to keep the production costs per cable kilometer as low as possible, attempts were made to utilize the new system to the full. In the trial operation, production was therefore carried out in "continuous shifts", i.e. continuously in shifts around the clock, including on weekends, which soon led to bitter dispute with the works council and subsequent legal disputes.

Change from ITT to Compagnie Générale d'Électricité (1986)

Digital switching system System 12 or "S12" for short, later also "Alcatel S12" (overall view, cabinet when open)

In the ITT group, the telephone equipment business had deteriorated significantly by the mid-1980s. The main reason was the high cost of developing an electronic switching system in competition with the parallel developments of other manufacturers. The ITT system was later to be launched under the name "System 12" for what was then still the predominantly state-owned network operator. Traditionally, SEL and Siemens shared the West German market in a ratio of 1/3 to 2/3, whereby after the end of the war, SEL produced the electromechanical EMD system developed by Siemens under license and delivered it to the Deutsche Bundespost. Since no significant development costs had to be raised, the switching technology area was able to show high profits, which determined the profit potential of the entire SEL. With the foreseeable trend towards electronic systems, however, the working principle of Siemens' license dependency could no longer be continued, because a software-controlled system did not allow any significant license production depending on a licensor. SEL therefore had to set a strategic course for the main revenue and earnings carrier, switching technology, and set up an independent development department in association with the other European companies of the ITT group. As a result of the cost-intensive establishment of a development team for digital switching technology, the results reported for this area and thus for the entire company were significantly reduced. Hopes of being able to improve the result with the introduction of the digital switching systems System 12 in the United States were not fulfilled. The flagship product, which was developed for Europe at development costs of more than one billion US dollars , could not be adapted to US standards at acceptable costs. ITT abandoned its attempt to enter the American market dominated by AT&T and had to write off an additional $ 105 million. Telecommunications ran better at the German subsidiary in Stuttgart. At the Bundespost, the Siemens EWSD system and “System 12” or “S12” from SEL shared the German market in a ratio of two to one. The ITT management nevertheless planned to withdraw from this business area.

Rand Araskog first spoke to the competing Siemens in Munich . However, in view of the Federal Cartel Office, at the end of 1984 they were forced to reject the offer. The Daimler-Benz board members Edzard Reuter and Werner Niefer then traveled to New York. From a Standard Elektrik Lorenz was promised apparently more than the later clinched acquisition of AEG . Shortly afterwards asked at ITT and the Robert Bosch GmbH , which SEL with her daughter Tele Norma wanted to combine. Araskog was not prepared to sell the Stuttgart company, which is generally regarded as a “pearl”, separately. The buyer was supposed to take them over in an overall package with the other, economically much weaker holdings of the group.

The agreement in December 1986 came as a surprise, both for the industry and for the German SEL management under Helmut Lohr, who was not involved in the negotiations and had not been informed of the result in advance . ITT announced that it will bring its entire Western European telecommunications sector, including Standard Elektrik Lorenz, into a joint venture with the French Compagnie Générale d'Électricité (CGE). Its owner, the French state under the government of Jacques Chirac , had given her a free hand in the negotiations. Industry Minister Alain Madelin celebrated the plans to the French daily Le Monde as the "wedding of the century with ITT". In order to raise the high purchase price, however, CGE had to look for partners who wanted to contribute financially. Since she did not want to allow any greater influence on the emerging company, numerous interested parties , not least those brought into play by the state government of Baden-Württemberg under Lothar Späth for fear of the future of the SEL , waved off their thanks. In return for a payment of USD 577 million and a further USD 325 from the financial partners Société générale de Belgique and Crédit Lyonnais , CGE initially only received a majority stake. That of ITT share held in the new company in the amount of 37 percent, took CGE but only two years later. Standard Elektrik Lorenz was thus part of the newly created Alcatel NV based in Amsterdam , the Netherlands , which is specifically geared towards telecommunications . However, CGE managed to a large extent directly from its headquarters in Paris. After exiting from ITT , it held about 99% of Alcatel shares. Despite the change in affiliation, the German company in Stuttgart kept its name until further notice. In order to dispel concerns that there could be mass layoffs, as shortly before at Thomson in France, CGE President Pierre Suard had publicly asserted that the standard electrical system Lorenz would “continue to exist in the future with all company components in its current form”.

The press commented that Standard Elektrik Lorenz is now being put on a significantly shorter leash. The cultural difference between ITT and CGE was enormous. As far as business figures were concerned, Standard Elektrik Lorenz was used to an extreme level thanks to ITT . How the figures were achieved, from the organization of the processes to the sometimes very far-reaching product decisions, was the responsibility of the local management. Except in the context of corporate policy, interventions were only made when a subsidiary needed more funds and influence for particularly lofty plans than it could muster without the corporation alone. Or if their management failed, that is, with “bad numbers”, they missed the self-made forecasts, without being able to present a satisfactory explanation or recipes for a trend reversal. In clear contrast to this, the corporate management from France also tried to draw detailed questions to Paris and to make as many of the upcoming decisions as possible themselves. The news magazine Der Spiegel summarized the change in 1990 as follows: “In the worldwide ITT network, SEL operated as an independent company. The new gentlemen in Paris, on the other hand, have very precise ideas about where the SEL should go. [...] The Stuttgart head office is degraded to a branch of the French majority owner ”. The relationship between Pierre Suard, the President of the CGE and the German board of the SEL under Helmut Lohr, who was entrusted with a significant streamlining of the organization and the sale or closure of unprofitable areas, was tense from the start.

Decline and breakup (1987–1992)

The French state did not participate in the purchase price of the takeover. The Compagnie Générale d'Électricité therefore operated at the limit of its financial possibilities. Profits from the German subsidiary were firmly planned in order to quickly recoup the high purchase price. Standard Elektrik Lorenz , however, delivered by far the worst return in the entire group in the first year.

Helmut Lohr, with the support of Pierre Suard, assured the audio-video electronics division with headquarters in Pforzheim, which was part of the overall SEL package when it was sold to the French , that entertainment electronics will continue to have a firm place in the new group as a “strategic factor” in the future. However, Grundig , the market leader for televisions in Germany, triggered a drop in prices only a little later in order to counter the increasing number of suppliers from the Far East. The market share of the SEL brands Graetz and Schaub-Lorenz, which had been declining for some time, fell to only 6.9 percent. Due to rationalization measures and, above all, digitization, the capacities of the SEL television factory in Bochum had recently even increased. This worsened the capacity utilization, drove the costs per unit up and the whole area deep in the red. At a special meeting in December 1987, on strict instructions from Pierre Suard, Lohr explained to the supervisory board that they now had no choice but to sell the division or to shrink it to the level of a specialist supplier such as Loewe and Metz . That would have resulted in the dismissal of at least three quarters of the workforce. A buyer has already been found. The Finnish Nokia group would be ready to take over. SEL would just have to act quickly now. He had planned to close the deal the following day, effective January 1st. The employee representatives could not be convinced and gave him a setback in the vote. After another special meeting, on January 1, 1988, the entire production of radio and television equipment based in Germany with a total of around 8,000 employees and a turnover of around DM 1.5 billion, including the factories integrated in the purchase of the Graetz company, switched to Nokia.

EZ insert, installed in the cabinet of a "System 12"

The communications technology sector was supposed to pave the way for the mother company Alcatel and its French technology to the German market and to the major customer Bundespost. Under Gerhard Zeidler , Helmut Lohr's successor, SEL could hardly hold its own position. In the telephone business, the digital switching systems “System 12” and “S12” were the main focus. These, of all things, caused difficulties for the Post's engineers, were either too complex or did not work properly. Contract penalties and the loss of follow-up orders by the client, which was soon to be privatized as Deutsche Telekom, were the immediate consequences. At the urging of politicians to invest in the east of Germany, Gerhard Zeidler responded as one of the first managers in March 1990 and founded the joint venture RFT-SEL with the former telephone construction combine radio and telecommunications technology of the GDR . The early start brought millions in losses. The hope of being commissioned with equipping the new federal states as an “east producer” was not fulfilled. Of around 500,000 new connections, Swiss Post commissioned only a third from SEL, at the same rate as in the old federal states . The existing plants in the west could easily have covered the demand.

Efforts by Standard Elektrik Lorenz to make up for the weak domestic situation through growth in the export business failed miserably. Germany's western neighbors had barely opened their telephone markets to competition. As long as orders were distributed exclusively to the domestic industry, SEL did not get a chance abroad. Since her parent company in France and through subsidiaries also in Spain and other countries benefited from it, she could not have any interest in helping SEL to enter the market and ceding already secure shares in the business to the Stuttgart-based company. On the contrary, Pierre Suard had already made it clear in 1987 that the French Alcatel would further develop its own "System E10" in the field of public switching technology in parallel with "System 12". Standard Elektrik Lorenz was a big hit in the countries of the former Eastern Bloc . Zeidler believed he could set up up to 400,000 telephone connections in the Soviet Union , Poland , Hungary and Czechoslovakia . RFT-SEL was to manufacture mechanical telephone exchange systems for Eastern Europe with almost 3,000 employees in Arnstadt and radio systems with a further 1,200 employees in Rochlitz . Several hundred employees in Berlin were supposed to take over sales and service. But in the countries of Eastern Europe there was not enough money for orders in hard D-Mark. The economic situation in the Soviet Union was so catastrophic that its foreign currency was barely enough to buy food and urgently needed machinery. Hungary and Czechoslovakia were only interested in technical cooperation. They didn't want to buy ready-made telephone systems in the West, but rather build them in their own country. The demand tended towards zero. The number of employees at RFT-SEL fell from 5,000 to 3,800, and the reduction of another 500 jobs by the end of 1991 was announced in May.

At the same time, the company, actually a well-known pioneer in mobile communications or even radio technology in general, if the parent company C. Lorenz was also taken into account, missed the connection in this area of all things . Major orders for the supply of technology for the construction of the D1 and D2 mobile networks were later awarded to Siemens and the Swedish company Ericsson .

At ever shorter intervals, the company announced sales, layoffs and site closings. Responsibility for numerous areas, especially those without a direct link to telecommunications, was withdrawn from the Stuttgart SEL management and placed under other group subsidiaries.

Further development of the areas and brands at the respective successor companies

The unprofitable cable factory in Zuffenhausen was transferred to the sister company ALCATEL kabelmetal electro GmbH and shut down at the end of 1991. The approximately 25 hectare site adjacent to the company's headquarters with its administration buildings was sold. A large part has belonged to the directly neighboring plant of the car manufacturer Porsche since 2012 .

Consumer electronics

The entertainment electronics, which were sold on January 1, 1988, traded under the name Nokia-Graetz GmbH from February 2, 1988 and continued to sell color televisions, video recorders and amplifiers under the brand name "ITT Nokia" for a few years until the Finnish parent company gave up the business to itself focus on cell phones. The later use of the brand in the spelling "SchaubLorenz" is no longer directly related to the former production at G. Schaub Apparatebau or Standard-Elektrik Lorenz , but goes back to General Trading SpA and its successors, who acquired the naming rights in 1999 and for the distribution of imported consumer electronics, but above all household appliances .

Independently of this, Karcher AG from Birkenfeld acquired from ITT Manufacturing Enterprises LLC. in 2005 the license rights to use the “ITT” brand. Since then, TV sets and speaker systems have primarily been offered under the ITT brand .

Flight navigation systems, defense and traffic engineering

Alcatel SEL AG sold the development and production of flight navigation systems and defense technology in 1998 to the French Thomson-CSF . In the course of the merger to form Alcatel-Lucent Deutschland AG in 2006, the rail and traffic technology division was also transferred to its successor, the Thales Group .

Communications engineering

The core company for communications technology traded as Alcatel SEL AG from 1992 . The year before, the French parent company had also changed its name from Compagnie Générale d'Électricité to Alcatel Alsthom SA . The economic situation continued to deteriorate. The series of layoffs, closings and sales at the German subsidiary continued under the new name Alcatel SEL . At the end of 2005, Alcatel still had around 5,200 employees in Stuttgart, Arnstadt, Berlin, Bonndorf and Hanover with whom it was able to achieve a turnover of 1.2 billion euros.

On December 1, 2006, the parent company, which had shortened its name in June 1998 from Alcatel Alsthom SA to Alcatel SA , merged with the American company Lucent Technologies from Murray Hill , New Jersey . The seat of the new company was Paris. On January 1, the new resulting transferred Alcatel-Lucent , the Lucent Technologies Network Systems GmbH from Nuremberg to the Alcatel SEL AG in Stuttgart, which changed its name to Alcatel-Lucent Germany AG changed and with previously controlled from Nuremberg Lucent merged companies. On January 1, 2011, Alcatel-Lucent introduced the so-called “principal model”, with which the management of the operational business, which had previously been heavily influenced by specifications from Paris, was finally officially and formally transferred to France. In April 2015, the Finnish company Nokia presented the Alcatel-Lucent group with a takeover offer for 15.6 billion euros in shares. After the successful conclusion of this deal, both companies appeared together under the name Nokia on January 14, 2016.

Logo and slogan

The corporate design chosen for founding Standard Elektrik Lorenz and, above all, the logo is a work by graphic artist Anton Stankowski from 1954. It was intended to awaken associations with the sending and receiving of radio signals. For a later, slightly modified version of the logo, Anton Stankowski reduced the number of rays in each direction from four to three in 1979.

For several years, the company slogan was "SEL - The Whole Telecommunication Technology". The name "Schwäbisches Elektro Lädle" was at least as well-known for the company, as the colloquial, deliberate reinterpretation of the abbreviation of the company name with which it was mockingly "poked fun".

Company health insurance

At the locations of Standard Elektrik Lorenz , the company's own company health insurance fund SEL BKK , now Alcatel SEL BKK, was available for employees . At the end of 2006 it had around 60,000 insured persons. On January 1, 2007, it merged with BKK futur , which was roughly the same size and which was created in 1996 as an association of numerous smaller company health insurance funds , which was merged into the BKK Verkehrsbau Union (BKK VBU) on January 1, 2012 .

Corporate foundation

On October 21, 1979, Standard Elektrik Lorenz founded a charitable foundation. Their task was to promote research that contributes to a better interaction between humans and technology in communication systems. After the company was sold and renamed, the foundation also changed its name to Alcatel SEL Foundation . By the time it celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2004, under the motto “for humane technology”, it had sponsored more than 500 lectures and over 150 publications. In addition to the research award for technical communication , the highest endowed individual award for extra-industrial research with 20,000 euros, up to two completed economic dissertations on the subject of "communication and information technology" were each awarded a prize of 5,000 euros.

After the creation of Alcatel-Lucent , the name of the foundation was again adapted to the company name to Alcatel-Lucent Foundation for Communication Research . In mid-2015, the foundation stated on its website that due to the economic situation of its donors, future work was uncertain. It seems to have ceased its activity at this point.




  • SEL - milestones in communications engineering . Commemorative publication from 1978, for the 100th anniversary of the company
  • This is Standard Elektrik Lorenz AG , the company's publication from 1958, when it was founded

Individual evidence

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Coordinates: 48 ° 49 '55.5 "  N , 9 ° 9' 7.7"  E