The Glock Family Feud
A legal shootout has erupted within Austria’s wealthy Glock clan, makers of the well-known semiautomatic pistol of the same name. Sold to governments and civilians throughout the world—and used by two-thirds of U.S. police departments—the Glock handgun made its inventor, Gaston Glock, one of his country’s leading industrialists and a very rich man. Now Glock’s marriage to a woman 51 years his junior has ignited litigation and raised questions about the manufacturer’s future.
In December, Helga Glock, Gaston’s wife of 49 years until they divorced earlier in 2011, filed a civil lawsuit in an Austrian court seeking to regain a significant stake in the Glock corporate empire. She claims her stake was improperly shifted from her by advisers to her 82-year-old ex-husband. Helga, 71, alleges that the trouble began in October 2008, when Gaston suffered a stroke. One of his nurses, Kathrin Tschikof, “seemingly developed a close personal relationship” with the patient, the 58-page suit says. Soon, it adds, Helga was denied access to Gaston’s hospital room and then locked out of the family mansion. Helga claims it took her a year to recover her clothes and personal items from the lakeside villa in southern Austria.
In 2010, the suit states, the Glocks’ three adult children were fired from positions they held with the firearm company. Last spring, Gaston filed for divorce from Helga, and she, too, was notified that she would lose her role with the company, according to the suit. In July, Gaston married his former nurse, Tschikof, 31, in nuptials treated as a celebrity event by the Austrian media. “In the course of 2011,” the suit asserts, Helga “learned that Gaston Glock obviously had had extramarital relationships for years (both with Ms. Tschikof and with other women).”
Apart from hurt feelings, future control of the firearm fortune could be at stake. Ownership of the holding company, Glock, originally had been divided 85 percent-to-15 percent between Gaston and Helga, her suit claims. In 1999, it says, the couple created a joint trust intended to perpetuate Glock family ownership of the gunmaking business, with each spouse contributing “considerable assets” to the trust. Last year the trust was amended to preclude any continuing corporate role by Helga or her three kids, according to the suit. Helga seeks to undo these changes and to recover her 15 percent stake.
The suit describes how Helga and her offspring—Brigitte, Gaston Jr., and Robert—spent decades helping expand the family company from a garage metal shop into a global powerhouse. Robert, for example, gave up his ambition to become a lawyer because his father insisted that he work for the gun manufacturer in preparation of running it one day, the suit asserts. By pushing aside Helga and her children, Gaston’s inner circle has undermined the purpose of the family trust, the suit alleges. The Glock children were to “work in the Glock group in leading positions, and the trust’s assets should only be used for the Glock spouses and their joint offspring,” the suit adds.
Asked for comment, Alfred Autischer, Gaston’s public relations representative, said via e-mail: “We ask for your understanding that Gaston Glock won’t comment on ongoing proceedings in Austria. The proceedings only affect the private life of the Glock family. The companies of the Glock group are affected in no way.” A receptionist at Glock said company executives would have no comment. In a statement to the newspaper Die Presse in December, Gaston denied any wrongdoing and said that he “won’t allow that allegations, falsehoods, and speculation damage my reputation or that of my company.” The new Mrs. Glock, now managing director of the Glock Horse Performance Center, an equestrian complex in southern Austria, also declined to comment, according to Autischer.
The Glock children are moving on. Brigitte has opened a pet store near Vienna, according to a former Glock employee. Gaston Jr. has launched a hunting apparel company in the U.S. Robert owns restaurants in Austria. Still, in late 2011, Robert gave an interview to the Austrian publication Krone, in which he mourned recent family developments. “It is not about the money,” he was quoted as saying. “We’re talking about a life’s work, which is now ruined and broken.”