100 Years
Steiner

“I have always built, had to build and, if I could start over, would build once again.”
(Karl Steiner, sole owner of Steiner AG from 1944 to 1988)

1915

1915–1928

“May God protect reputable craftsmanship”

The First World War is raging in Europe, Switzerland is short of raw materials, manpower and food. In these dark times, Carl Steiner opens a joiner’s workshop in 1915. In his father-in-law’s cellar, he planes his hands raw. Thirteen years later he has five employees and two apprentices. One is his son, Karl.

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Carl Steiner is 35 years old, has a wife, a child and dreams. He has been working for others for years. Now he would step out on his own – if it weren’t for the war.

Opportunity seized
Steiner lives with his family in his in-laws’ house at Hönggerstrasse 92 in Zurich’s northern district. At the beginning of 1915, when he hears of a company from Germany looking for a joiner to plane and assemble telephone boxes, he seizes the opportunity. Using a light bulb, cable and a copper pan, he puts together a glue boiler and sets up a workshop in his father-in-law’s cellar. From now on, he is a joiner with his own business.
In 1917, food is being rationed in Zurich. The Communists come to power in Russia. But Steiner has other concerns: he needs more space and, as a result, moves for the first time.

More machines, more possibilities
The war ends in 1918. But now the workers rise up. The Swiss general strike comes to an end with a show of force by the military. The economy slowly starts to recover. In 1920, Carl Steiner takes on his first employee and moves once again, renting a three-room workshop in Milchbuck from the city of Zurich. He finally has enough room to add machines to the joinery. He purchases a planer from Rauschenbach in Schaffhausen, along with a disk sanding machine and a belt saw with chamfer and milling attachment. Steiner produces a promotional box to hold 30,000 rolls of silk for the Zwicky silk factory, and walnut telephone boxes for the city of Zurich. He also crafts coffins, furniture and church pews. What makes his products superior are the quality and precision he offers: he works to the nearest millimetre, rather than the centimetre.

Sleeping in the drying chamber
To meet deadlines, the Steiner joiners work late into the night, sleep in the warm drying chamber and start again early the next morning. Employee rights are still an unknown concept. Both sons also help out after school.
In 1928, Carl Steiner receives notice that his lease is being terminated. At the time, he has five employees and two apprentices – including his son Karl. He must decide where to move next.

The resentment of the workers' movement evolved into a general strike in 1918, which the Swiss military nipped in the bud.

1929

1929–1943

Working instead of striking – Steiner continues to grow

In 1929, the stock market crash undermines the global economy. Political attitudes become more radical. Carl Steiner is radical, too, but only in terms of his quality criteria. He continues planing wood instead of striking. When he bequeaths his life’s work to son Karl in 1944, the company has 50 employees.

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Barbed wire surrounds the former warehouse for acids and explosives at Hofwiesenstrasse 226 in Zurich-Oerlikon. The brick building has no windows, no light, no heating, no running water – but it sits on 2,300 square metres of land. And that’s what counts, since Steiner needs room to expand.
The move to Oerlikon takes place during the bitterly cold winter of 1928-29, when Zurich even experiences a rare frozen lake. The Steiner joiners cut doors and windows into the building’s façade, dig a cesspit and install central heating, electric lighting and a high-voltage power line.

Strike? Not the Steiner men!
In 1929, son Karl completes his apprenticeship in the joinery and continues his education at the School of Applied Arts. He’s young, but at 18 he already has a head for business. He sells wood to the school for its lessons and turns his first profit. The stock market in the United States crashes in October. An economic crisis begins. Unemployment grows; politically, people become more radical. Hitler comes to power in Germany in 1933. Carl Steiner is affected by the political developments one year later in the form of a two-month joiner’s strike in Zurich. Twenty-three workers are employed by him at the time. Not one goes on strike. To convince the Steiner workforce to walk out, 250 strikers assemble in front of the company’s joinery. Stones are thrown, a window is broken, a shot rings out. The police have to drive to the strikers away.

Carl and Karl
In 1936, unemployment increases in Switzerland to a record high of 124,000. That is also the year Carl Steiner officially registers his company. The listed activities include “mechanical joinery, manufacture of school and shop furniture, household furniture, interior fittings”. Three years later, son Karl begins supervising construction of the interior fittings at the new congress centre. For the first time, Steiner uses subcontractors for installation work and flooring. The idea is born to construct entire, finished buildings with the help of subcontractors.

In active service
The Second World War breaks out on 1 September 1939. Switzerland mobilises its military. Karl Steiner takes command of Fusiliers Company III/69 in January 1940. His battalion commander later recalls, “Wherever Captain Steiner went, you could be confident that he did his duty completely – following orders, without orders or even against orders, if necessary.” Steiner would have liked to continue his military career. But a company was waiting for him in Zurich, bearing his name. 

Captain Karl Steiner at a briefing. The military meant a lot to Karl Steiner - including when recruiting employees.

Captain Steiner on parade in front of General Guisans with the Fusiliers company III/69.

Karl Steiner was a big Hodler collector. “Study of the Carpenter in his Workshop” (1897) remains a family possession.

1944

1944–1948

Room for vision: Move to Hagenholz

Many shake their head when Steiner moves the joinery to Hagenholz in Oerlikon in 1948 – on heavy-duty carts, since there is still no asphalt road. Yet anyone with big ambitions needs the space to realise them. Within a short time, Steiner transforms the reedy fields into a flourishing industrial area, which becomes the company’s headquarters.

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On 1 January 1944, Karl Steiner takes over his father’s joinery and its nearly 50 employees. To begin with, nothing changes. Steiner senior turns up for work on time every morning just as before, which is a good thing, since Karl Steiner is often away carrying out his military duties. When Germany surrenders on 6 May 1945, Officer Steiner has spent over 1,000 days in uniform. He is now drawn to new adventures – as an entrepreneur.

Drawing boards for the US Army
The economy picks up. Karl Steiner is fanatical about quality, just like his father. But more than his father, he is also an outstanding salesman. Without speaking English, he tries to make contact with the American army in war-torn Germany. He is successful and he returns home with an order for 10,000 drawing boards. There is only one problem: the US Army wants delivery by 1 October 1945. Once again, Steiner works on Sundays and even the employees’ wives help out.
Karl Steiner recognises the joinery’s great potential. He wants to offer customers complete interiors, all from one source – from windows and doors to furniture, fittings and floor systems. For this, however, he needs even more machines and more room. He needs to take risks.

Moving into new territory
The Steiner joinery has been based in Zurich-Oerlikon since 1928. In 1935, by diverting the River Glatt, the city of Zurich made new development possible on its outskirts. Here, in Hagenholz, shortly after the war, Steiner purchases a huge plot of land. Many shake their heads because it is a long way from the industrial area to the south of the train station and even further away from customers in Zurich proper. It is also completely undeveloped – the Leutschenbach still flows where Hagenholzstrasse is located today. But Karl Steiner is an optimist and knows that if he locates there, others will too. And then the asphalt road will come as a matter of course.
The move takes place in autumn 1948. When work stops on a machine, it is carted to the new joinery two kilometres away, although “joinery” is an understatement, since Steiner has built a huge building suitable for woodcutting, shredding and veneering, and large enough to hold a chipping silo. A small office building has also been constructed. 

Those were real prices! A little cash book from 1944.

1949

1949–1961

Steiner becomes general contractor

Karl Steiner has a vision. Anyone beginning a construction project must deal with architects, notaries, carpenters and electricians. To make things easier, Steiner decides to provide completely finished buildings. In other words, he wants to become a general contractor. This is something new in Switzerland – and the beginning of a new era for the Steiner company.

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Karl Steiner identifies what people need. For example, beauty salons and perfume shops are becoming symbols of economic prosperity. In Basel he purchases a company specialised in hairdressing equipment and becomes the market leader. He opens salons across Switzerland, from Zurich to Basel, Lugano to Geneva.

Supermarket boom
Shop construction grows even faster. One customer in particular keeps Steiner busy: Migros. In 1948, Migros opens Switzerland’s first self-service shop in Zurich. It’s a resounding success. The company opens 460 branches by 1966 – fitted with the Steiner-patented Steka shelf system. From 1961, the metal components and additional items for shop construction are made in Limbiate near Milan, where Steiner founds its first foreign subsidiary. And a tradition continues: before their summer holidays in the Engadin, both sons Peter and Ulrich help out for two weeks in the family factory at an hourly rate of CHF 2.40.

The first high-rise building
Steiner’s greatest vision is bigger than any shop he may set up, however: he wants to become a general contractor and build entire buildings, as Ernst Göhner attempted in the 1930s and as has long been done in the United States. Promoters should be able to “order” turnkey buildings from him, with guaranteed prices and deadlines. After all, Steiner knows how to coordinate, delegate, lead and take decisions, something he demonstrated during his time in the military.
During the move to Hagenholzstrasse in 1947, Steiner finds a large piece of property on Talstrasse containing a villa, not far from Zurich’s Paradeplatz. Nobody wants to sign a contract with someone with no prior experience so, together with a partner, he buys the property himself and builds his first commercial building. It is immediately rented out and receives the Outstanding Building Award from the city of Zurich.

The first 18 million
With bank loans, Steiner buys and develops additional properties in Zurich-Enge and Wollishofen. In 1953, he sells four housing developments to an investment fund for CHF 18 million. With the money, he develops a huge site with 600 apartments in Zurich-Affoltern. The access road is named Schumacherweg after his maternal grandfather.
Buyers love Steiner buildings because of their excellent value for money, outstanding quality and modern layouts. At the same time, the company’s growth is also a result of the upturn after the war years. Between 1947 and 1970, residential housing doubles in the canton of Zurich; the city has never had more inhabitants than in 1962: 445,000.

A good nose: In 1956 Steiner built 600 apartments in Zurich-Affoltern. In the following years, the village developed into an urban district.

On a Steiner building site in Lucerne. No hard hats in those days - they only became compulsory in 2000.

1962

1962–1966

Scandal in St. Moritz! Lowlander builds hotel

Karl Steiner is laughed at as he rides the railway in St. Moritz in his tattered trousers. In response, he builds his own hotel in the chic resort in 1963. For the company’s 50th anniversary in 1965 he publishes a study on university construction. He also receives a warm reception – from professors, journalists and a member of the Federal Council.

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Karl Steiner loves the Engadin. Every summer he takes his family to Pontresina, where he and his sons begin their extensive hikes to the area’s mountain lodges. When using the railway in St. Moritz with his son Peter, other guests jeer at his patched corduroys.

Workers in St. Moritz
A short time later Steiner builds his own hotel, including his own penthouse apartment, in St. Moritz. Not a luxury hotel – there are enough of them – but a modern four-star establishment in a Scandinavian design. A hint of democracy blows through the chic holiday resort. The long-established hotel owners are not so welcoming, however, and the local hotel association initially refuses to accept the Crystal Hotel as a member. In spite of this, guests arrive in droves, often including Steiner’s most loyal employees. To celebrate the company’s 30-year anniversary, the boss offers a three-week stay for two people in the Crystal Hotel. So joiners, labourers and metalworkers continue to stroll through St. Moritz.

Never been so busy
At home in Zurich the boss announces, “We’ve never been so busy.” As more and more people begin owning cars, rural living develops into a mega-trend. The number of commuters doubles between 1950 and 1970 to 29 per cent of the total workforce. Urban density increases: in Effretikon alone, Steiner builds 750 apartments for 2,500 people. On Dufourstrasse, Steiner builds Zurich’s first mechanical car park – a novelty.
Steiner also receives two big contracts from the Swiss insurance company Suva to build its new administration centre in Lucerne and a hospital in Bellikon. In need of a rapid, detailed model of the hospital, Steiner asks external model builders to create one. The fastest can do it in three months. Steiner’s model builder and the joiners make it themselves. Eleven days later, the model is ready for the press conference.

A study for the people
In 1965, Steiner celebrates its 50-year anniversary. Instead of paying homage to itself, it thanks the public with a 400-page study of the current “Problems of university expansion”. In it, Steiner demonstrates above all the new possibilities of efficient construction. A city councillor praises the publication, saying, “What a great service you have rendered Zurich and higher education with your anniversary edition.” A professor says he has “never read such an interesting, stimulating and in some ways exciting piece of writing as this anniversary book”.  And a member of the Federal Council adds, “Rarely has a private company published such a fundamental and comprehensive study on a subject which does not concern it directly.”

Zurich's agglomeration grows. The “Vogelbuck” in Effretikon remains popular today because of the modern apartment layouts.

For the 50th anniversary, Steiner offers the public the trailblazing study entitled “Problems of university expansion”.

Curiosity: Steiner builds Switzerland's first mechanical car park in Zurich.

1967

1967–1973

Balsberg, boom, rebellion

Luxurious, exotic and slightly erotic – no Swiss company in the 1960s is as sexy as Swissair. With the construction of its head office, Steiner leaps to the top of the construction sector. It’s fitting, then, that Steiner also builds Zurich’s tallest building in 1972. Investment in the construction business is also at a record high – but then weapons begin to sound in the Middle East.

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1967 is a brilliant year for Steiner. The construction of Swissair’s new main administration building – locally known as “Balsberg” – is a huge boost to Steiner’s image. This is because, on the one hand, the project is exceptionally challenging, including everything from the acquisition of land, creation of transport links and coordination of over 300 subcontractors. And, on the other hand, the finished building is architecturally compelling. The architecture is reminiscent of American modernism, and the design was created by Steiner’s own architecture department – at the time the largest in Zurich. Without sounding arrogant, Karl Steiner is able to tell his employees in 1968, “As a general contractor, our company is now one of the most prestigious in Switzerland."

"Pioneering character"
Yet suddenly, in the middle of the economic boom, the younger generation rebels. First in the US, then in Paris and Berlin, followed by the “global riot” in Zurich. The company director is confounded. “Hatred and dissatisfaction were never the foundations for a better future,” he writes in the company newspaper.
Karl Steiner does not comment on the introduction of women’s suffrage in 1971. Instead he celebrates his 60th birthday – modestly, in his hunting lodge. The NZZ newspaper honours the patriarch “with the pioneering character”.

Steiner builds to the highest heights
Growth knows no end. In 20 years the population of the canton of Zurich climbs from 777,000 (1950) to 1,107,000 (1970) and real income goes up by 214 per cent. At Steiner, business is booming and employees work on Saturdays. The company builds Zurich’s highest building, the 850-metre Hotel International next to Oerlikon station, and, in 1973, IBM’s headquarters on General-Guisan-Quai.

Sudden crisis
Then weapons start to sound in the Middle East. Because the US and the West support Israel in the Yom-Kippur War, the Arab states restrict oil production. The price of oil spikes dramatically and the oil crisis begins. Steiner finds no buyers for the 205 apartments in the Talacker housing development in Uster.

Extract from a typical Steiner construction board - here with the construction of the Hotel International (now Swissôtel) in the background.

The foreman oversees welding together the armouring irons. A total of 305 piles were concreted for Balsberg.

As a result of the oil crisis, a driving ban also came into force in Switzerland on three Sundays at the end of 1973.

1974

1974–1978

Expansion in crisis

The oil crisis hits the Swiss construction industry hard: 40 per cent of jobs are lost. But not at Steiner, where there are no layoffs, not even reduced hours. Its new office building is commissioned in 1975; a leading renovations company is acquired in 1978. Karl Steiner finds the scaremongers warning of too many foreigners irritating.

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Normally it goes against Karl Steiner’s principles to speak to his employees about politics. But what is normal in the 1970s, a troubled decade that started out so well, but is now quickly sliding into the worst economic crisis since the Second World War? And now there are these scaremongers supporting an initiative to drive half a million foreigners out of Switzerland.

Not without our foreigners
How would that work? Some 170,000 apartments would stand empty in an instant – a catastrophe for the construction industry. Apart from this, around 50 trusted non-Swiss Steiner employees would have to pack their bags. “Our foreigners” runs the headline in the company newspaper in 1974. Steiner says his non-Swiss employees have his “complete trust” and warns others in the company about supporting the initiative, whose economic consequences would be disastrous for Steiner. The initiative comes to nothing; Steiner can breathe easy again.

Welcome Unirenova
One year later, Steiner moves into its new offices. More room at last! Or 3,950 square metres, to be exact, more than double the previous amount. The 20-metre Steiner-blue building is a symbol of Steiner’s rise, which even the crisis cannot stop. Not one layoff, not one day of reduced hours at the company. In 1976, Steiner hands over 455 apartments in the Grünau development to the predominantly cooperative builder-owners. Two years later, Steiner strengthens its Conversion and Renovation department with the acquisition of Unirenova. The former subsidiary of kitchen fitter Bruno Piatti is specialised in apartment renovation. Steiner knows that post-war residential developments will slowly require refurbishment and that it has the know-how to modernise them professionally.

Arguably Zurich's most spectacular swimming pool in the 1970s: on the top floor of the Hotel International (now Swissôtel).

Here Steiner is building for a total of four cooperatives and 2600 residents: the Grünau in Zurich-Altstetten.

FIFA has been based in Zurich since 1932, in 1978 Steiner built their new headquarters.

1979

1979–1983

Crossing the “Röschtigraben” into French-speaking Switzerland

Steiner emerges stronger from the economic crisis of the 1970s. In 1979, the general contractor opens its first subsidiary in western Switzerland – and immediately builds a “megastructure” on Quai du Seujet. Steiner faces the public’s increased hostility toward the construction industry.

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People say about Karl Steiner that he only invests in things he genuinely understands. And because at a fundamental level this means understanding language, Steiner has long resisted expanding into western Switzerland – as he doesn’t speak French. Only in 1979 does Steiner open its first subsidiary in Geneva, on the other side of the “Röschtigraben” frontier. A short while later, the general contractor begins construction of Quai du Seujet, a “megastructure” and visionary project offering office and residential space, directly on the River Rhone in the centre of Geneva. Steiner also moves here in 1984.

Save with Steiner
Meanwhile a rare headline is seen in Zurich. Cost overruns in public construction projects are a regular topic of discussion, but the headline in the NZZ newspaper on 12 February 1980 declaims: “Costs reduced by CHF 5 million”. The subject was the newly opened Schluefweg sports and leisure centre in Kloten. Who is to “blame” for the 20-per-cent discount received by the city of Kloten? The general contractor: Karl Steiner.

Steiner goes public
On 1 January 1980 the privately owned company Karl Steiner becomes a stock corporation with share capital of CHF 50 million. It’s a small step for the company, a large step for the man Karl Steiner. “Now I’m my own employee,” he remarks. This legal step was necessary due to the size of the company and to address the issue of succession.

Rezone, please!
Karl Steiner is now 69 years old. Despite this, the “old-school patriarch” (Bilanz magazine) initially remains the only member of the Board of Directors of his stock corporation; only in 1984 do son Peter and a son-in-law join him. Just as before, he arrives at the office at 6.30 am; just as before, he remains militantly in favour of the construction sector. In 1980, when Migros is finally able to open the Neumarkt development in Zurich Altstetten after 22 years of planning, general contractor Steiner fulminates, “Building takes time, building preparation an eternity.” In the NZZ newspaper, he openly demands a simplification of the planning permission process and a rezoning of previous industrial areas – a visionary demand, which is to become reality 15 years later with the opening of the Zurich-West development area.

Taxpayers have something to smile about: During the construction of the Schluefweg in Kloten, Steiner saved a total of 5 million francs!

The elegant expansion of the Swiss Bank Corporation (now UBS). Steiner had already built with Werner Gantenbein in 1967.

1984

1984–1989

“Zurich has been built” – Steiner braves political headwinds

High-rise buildings prohibited, planning permissions refused. Building becomes increasingly complicated for Steiner in his home market of Zurich. Karl Steiner dies in 1988. Son Peter and son-in-law Heinrich Baumann-Steiner take the helm. One year later, the Berlin Wall comes down, heralding a new era.

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No construction project gets tempers flaring more than a high-rise building. In good times, high-rises are widely accepted, in bad times they become symbols of excess. Steiner built its first high-rise in 1966: the 37-metre residential development at Zurich-Wollishofen. Six years later – at the peak of the construction boom – Steiner builds Zurich’s tallest building: the Hotel International at Oerlikon Station.

Riding high despite construction ban
The crisis in the 1970s did affect people’s belief in progress. This is also apparent when voters in Zurich back an initiative in 1984 to prohibit the construction of high-rise buildings in the city. In international Geneva, on the other hand, high-rise buildings continue to go up in top locations – such as the Steiner-built Procter & Gamble headquarters.
It could have been a lot worse for Steiner. The building application was filed in time for the high-rise at Schanzenbrücke. Building began on the so-called “last high-rise in Zurich” in 1985. It is built using a complex cut-and-cover method, and extends 22 metres below ground and 50 metres skywards.

Special day in new facilities
One year later Steiner opens its new production facilities in Hagenholz. They allow for computer-controlled production flow in window and facade construction, and in the joinery and the metalworking department. But before the drilling and milling machines are installed, a surprise party is held there to celebrate Karl Steiner’s 75th birthday.
And on the occasion of his birthday, business magazine Bilanz publishes a rare profile of Karl Steiner. In the article, he protests, “You simply can no longer build in Zurich.” Less than two years later, this is confirmed by Zurich councillor Ursula Koch who famously says: “Zurich has been built.” She also refuses planning permission for Steiner’s large-scale Utopark project in 1988.

Death of the patriarch
Karl Steiner dies before this setback. On 12 April 1988 he suffers a heart attack – suddenly and without a single day of lying inactive in bed. And that is typical of Karl Steiner. He is survived by his wife and four children. Son Peter and daughter Esther Baumann-Steiner divide the company between them, with Peter Steiner and son-in-law Heinrich Baumann-Steiner in charge of operations.
The Berlin Wall comes down on 9 November 1989. A new era begins, with new challenges and opportunities – including for Steiner.

In 1984 Karl Steiner brought son-in-law Heinrich Baumann-Steiner and son Peter Steiner into the Steiner AG Board of Directors.

Steiners industrial operations are still running at full blast: the new production hall was inaugurated in 1986.

1990

1990–1998

Moving on – Steiner expands abroad

The years of plenty are over. Competition is growing, Steiner's industrial operations are flagging, a property crisis is imminent. Against this background, the new managers decide to move into new territory: international expansion.

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With the death of Karl Steiner in 1988, the age of the powerful general contractor comes to an end. Competition is tougher, margins smaller, rules stricter. In addition, low interest rates after the stock market crash of 1987 increase the risk of a housing bubble. When the Swiss National Bank restricts the money supply in 1990, the housing crisis starts. Spending on building drops from CHF 65 billion (1990) to CHF 45 billion (1997).

Growth through expansion
Steiner AG stands at a crossroads. “Contraction or growth” are the alternatives, according to Steiner and Baumann-Steiner in a 1990 editorial. They opt for growth – but now abroad. In Germany, Steiner AG acquires Infratec, a general contractor specialised in computer-centre construction, from well-known Nixdorf Computer AG. The company becomes Steiner Infratec. This transforms Steiner into an international construction group with a holding company. Two years later, Steiner invests USD 15 million in a 22-per-cent stake in the established US total contractor Turner Construction, where Peter Steiner did an internship in the 1970s. By founding the joint venture Turner Steiner International, Steiner receives access to the booming Asian construction market.

Europe’s largest building-site excavation
In Berlin, ten cranes tower above Europe’s largest building-site excavation, where Steiner Infratec is building the Friedrichstadt shopping centre. Unirenova also opens a subsidiary in Berlin. Following decades of socialist mismanagement, renovation is required in Germany’s new states. With the creation of Sogelym-Steiner SAS, Steiner increases its presence in Switzerland’s second largest neighbour, France.
In Switzerland, sales are high but stagnant. In 1993, the Conversion and Renovation department generates record sales, one year later it completes its most spectacular project: the Hotel Widder in the heart of Zurich, a luxury hotel housed within walls dating back to the Middle Ages. In 1997, Steiner is commissioned to start Switzerland’s largest-ever construction project: the third phase of ETH Zurich’s Hönggerberg campus, with 80,000 square metres of space.

Back to the core business
Industrial operations remain problematic. Steiner needs to reduce personnel and sells its window production and facade construction business in 1998. It also gradually withdraws from Germany and Italy. Steiner wants to focus all its available resources on its core competence: being a total service contractor who offers services covering a building’s entire life cycle.

In the mid-90s Steiner built the Friedrichstadt-Passagen in the center of Berlin with subsidiary Steiner Infratec.

1999

1999–2008

Bigger, higher – tougher

The new millennium begins with superlatives. In 2000, the highest building Steiner ever helped develop scrapes the sky in Dubai. Four years later, the ground-breaking ceremony is held for what will be its largest completed complex: Sihlcity. Just as Steiner is planning to go public in 2007, the financial crisis erupts. The tide is turning.

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Shortly before the new millennium, Swedish is suddenly the new language on the top floor at Steiner. Up to 30 external auditors copy hard disks, comb through files, run interviews. The Swedish construction group Skanska is interested in holding a 70-per-cent stake in Karl Steiner AG. The deal falls through at the last minute due to the Lex Friedrich ruling: Steiner manages Swiss property in its portfolio that cannot be sold to foreign companies. The issue of succession at Steiner is therefore more unresolved than ever. When Esther Baumann-Steiner announces her desire to leave the family company, Peter Steiner becomes the sole owner of Steiner AG.

A skyscraper in Dubai
Another successful acquisition: the Turner Corporation is sold to Germany’s Hochtief in 1999 for USD 370 million. Peter Steiner engineers the deal at the World Economic Forum. As part of the transfer, Steiner sells its stake to Turner and dissolves Turner Steiner International. The Emirates Towers, which open in 2000 in Dubai, are the high point and conclusion of the joint venture. At a height of 355 metres, they are the highest buildings Steiner has ever helped develop.
Another big undertaking is an urban development project about to be realised in Zurich: Eurogate, an over-rail development, including residential space, to go up southwest of the railway station at a cost of CHF 1.5 billion. Steiner is managing the project. UBS is on board as an investor, and even SBB is about to sign the contract. In the end, negotiations over car parks and SBB’s hesitant attitude prevent the project from getting off the ground.

Sihlcity, a masterstroke
In lieu of that, the Federal Court ends a 13-year lawsuit with the city of Zurich, ruling that Steiner can build the Utopark office complex. But nobody needs office space in Zurich’s southern district any more. Together with architect Theo Hotz, Steiner develops a new vision: the Sihlcity retail and entertainment centre. With a total investment of CHF 600 million, this “city in the city” becomes the most successful project Steiner has ever developed, built and sold in the company’s capacity as total contractor. The ground-breaking ceremony is held in 2004, the opening in 2007 and the award ceremony in 2013. In an ironic twist, Sihlcity receives the Outstanding Building Award from the city of Zurich.

The peak of success
In 2006, Steiner enjoys record sales of over CHF 1.5 billion; the workforce increases from 321 to 532 between 2001 and 2006. Steiner is now Switzerland’s second-largest general contractor behind publicly traded Implenia. In mid-2007, the conditions seem right for going public. But then the sub-prime crisis explodes in the United States. The IPO is cancelled. The tide is turning.

WEF 2000: Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Peter Steiner in discussion. Peter Steiner was a guest of the WEF for over 20 years.

With Turner Steiner International, Steiner has developed numerous projects in the Middle East - here the Emirates Towers in Dubai.

2009

2009–2015

New majority shareholder for Steiner

In 2010, Peter Steiner sells the majority of shares of Steiner AG to India’s Hindustan Construction Company (HCC). The deal allows Peter Steiner to solve the succession issue and Steiner AG can share its know-how with HCC. Things are looking up – and not only because the Prime Tower becomes Zurich’s tallest building in 2011.

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The financial crisis is a global crisis. It hits Steiner AG in Zurich, it hits the Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) in India. The general contractor has built most of India’s tunnels, 10 per cent of all national roads and numerous power stations. But there are virtually no investors to be found for infrastructure projects. HCC wants to diversify.

India, a growth market
Peter Steiner knows about these plans. He has known Ajit Gulabchand, chairman and managing director of HCC, personally for over 20 years through their involvement in the World Economic Forum in Davos. Peter Steiner also knows that his company could help HCC. Finally, Steiner is in Switzerland what HCC wants to become in India: a leading total contractor for high-rise buildings. On the other hand, Peter Steiner is still looking for a capable successor.
On 16 March 2010, HCC purchases 66 per cent of Steiner AG, the remaining 34 per cent follow in 2014. In return, HCC guarantees the ongoing existence of the Steiner brand in Switzerland – and the company’s expansion in India.

Successes under new management
In the following three years, Steiner AG increases its revenues continuously, making a profit every year. In 2013, Steiner takes on a new, colourful corporate identity and a one-brand strategy. The end of 2012 sees the creation of Steiner India Ltd. Parent company HCC provides a major contract: construction management of Lavasa, India’s largest urban development project. The following year, Steiner India also wins major contracts for residential developments in Mumbai and Pune.

Where everything began
But back to the beginning. Back to Zurich-Oerlikon, where Karl Steiner purchased “worthless” fields almost 70 years ago to build an industrial company. In 2001, Steiner finally said goodbye to the company’s history of skilled crafts with the sale of Karl Steiner Industrie AG. In doing so, it made room for a new vision: Leutschenbach, the new urban district which combines living, work and leisure space. Steiner builds three residential developments with a total of 439 apartments on its original property. In the neighbouring Hunziker district, the “mehr als wohnen” development opens in 2015, offering 369 apartments that are highly innovative in terms of both their architectural and environmental design.
Steiner is also developing two office complexes. Steiner AG moves into one of them, the Andreaspark business centre, in 2010. This frees up the venerable, Steiner-blue head office built in 1975. It gives way to the SkyKey high-rise, which fills the last gap left on the original property.

247 Park - The headquarters of Steiner India Ltd. in Mumbai.

Developed by Steiner India Ltd., the Sereno project in the Indian city of Pune comprises four buildings with a total of 180 apartments.

In 2010 Steiner moved from its previous headquarters – built in 1975 – to the state-of-the-art office tower Business Center Andreaspark.