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.


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


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


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

Data: WCM, BusinessWeek

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