Egy ökör csak ökör marad ha Budapeströl Bécsbe hajtják is.
(“An ox remains an ox even if driven from Budapest to Vienna” – A Hungarian proverb)
Walking out of a grueling three-hour project team meeting on March 21, 2003,
32-year-old Dr. Philipp von Wilmowsky took a deep breath and smiled to himself. "This project is like a giant jigsaw puzzle," he thought. "It was fun, time consuming, but would he be able to complete it with all the right pieces in place?" As director of Hungarian operations for ECE proiektmanagement, a German real estate development conglomerate,
Philipp had worked for two years on a 30,300 square meter (m2) €80 million shopping center project located along the Danube River in the city of Györ (pronounced "jyur).
Lining up four credit anchor tenants had been easy; finalizing the site acquisition, the permits, the design and the financing was going to be a lot tougher. As he mulled over the project during the 45-minute drive back to Budapest, Philipp was concerned about next week's presentation in Hamburg to Alexander Otto (HBS MBA '94), Philipp's boss and
ECE's Chairman. In recent discussions, a potential equity investor had questioned some of Philipp's market assumptions and indicated that the project costs were too high to meet their return requirements. ECE would be forced to choose between altering the design of the building to make it less expensive and trying to continue negotiations with the prospective investor. With only a few months to finalize the details of the project, Philipp would have to present the tradeoffs of the possible design options to Otto and other equity investors. As he settled into his ritual Friday evening flight back to Hamburg,
Philipp acknowledged that this would be yet another working weekend and he would have to wait to celebrate the first day of spring.
Philipp had joined ECE with an unusual background for the real estate business.
He had earned two law degrees,