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Table: Ehlerding's Rise


1960s

Still a college student in his twenties, Karl Ehlerding raises $135,000 from friends and relatives to buy an ailing railroad line. Closes the railroad, sells the real estate, and more than triples investment.

1991

Converts WCM, the shell of an 18th-century textile company, into a vehicle for investments.

1995

WCM moves from real estate to buying and reselling undervalued companies such as grocery chain Spar Handels.

2001

WCM concludes hostile takeover of machine-tool maker Kl?ckner-Werke. Announces aim to make another acquisition for up to $3.5 billion within a year.

Data: WCM, BusinessWeek


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