In the 1990s he was regularly voted one of the “most important Germans”, and in the meantime he even ranked second directly behind the then Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl – but in fact he is a “real Viennese”: Helmut Thoma.
Born in the Austrian capital in the historic year of 1939, he too was to write history himself – media history. It was Thoma who, under his leadership (1984 to 1998), made “RTL” one of the largest television stations in Germany through a series of courageous innovations.
In the meantime, he has long left the media world behind – at least in terms of management: After “RTL”, Thoma went to the mobile phone provider “Freenet” (formerly Mobilcom), where he was also committed with a visionary spirit as the head of the supervisory board for more than twenty years – his ideas and Unfortunately, proposals were often slowed down by a “disinterested” management, as he now reveals. Because Thoma, who is celebrating his 83rd birthday today, May 3, is retiring from the Freenet board after more than two decades. In parting, he draws an honest – and at the same time ruthless – balance sheet.
As he said bluntly in an interview with the German “Handelsblatt”, he would have had even bigger plans – but in contrast to the media world, stumbling blocks were put in his way with the mobile phone provider. In retrospect, he is harsh with the management of “Freenet” and is particularly disappointed with CEO Vilanek.
Thoma, who had made RTL big, had similarly dimensioned visions for the mobile phone provider – and with this in mind in 2010 also appointed the acting CEO Christoph Vilanek to senior management. “An absolutely wrong decision,” as Thoma now sums it up.