Stephan Werthmüller: Audacity and commitment to music, culture, and sports

Stephan Werthmüller, Board Member of ITS International Transport & Shipping Ltd., is a well-known personality in Basel, not least thanks to 35 years of Baloise Session (Founder & Chairman) and his work as FCB Chief Financial Officer during the very prosperous years of the club. The financial expert has successfully made a career out of his passion. In an interview, he reveals the secret of his success.

An Interview by Jenny Settembrini

You are a member of the Board of Directors of ITS International Transport & Shipping Ltd. How did that happen?

This is such a typical story for me: I knew the former owner, I knew a possible investor, and then I also met the three potential buyers, Massimo, Javi and Fabrizio. I had the chance to bring together the perfectly complementary pieces of the puzzle. This is a common thread in my life: I owe a lot to my network. Somehow, I have always managed to bring the right people together. In the case of ITS, there was a really fast connection between the parties. We immediately felt the incredible energy of Massimo Bianco, Javi Sanchez and Fabrizio Cassai, so everyone believed that it could work. I joined the Board of Directors at the request of the investor.

So, you didn't know Massimo and Javi initially?

No, I only met them when I was brought in by the trustee of the owner at the time. But I knew immediately that it could work. I have a good instinct for this kind of things.

In my function as a member of the Board of Directors, I primarily deal with the CEO and the CFO, so I know mainly Massimo and Javi, and I can say that the two of them embody all the qualities that lead to success!

Are there other similar success stories in your “portfolio”?

Yes, at least one more: it was at an architect’s firm. I just consider stories like this incredibly beautiful. Not all companies develop into a high-flyer like ITS. It is a great feeling to be able to successfully accompany such corporate succession schemes. In a way, you feel a bit like a father.

You are best known for your activities in the music and sports business, what affinities do you have with the transportation industry?

I am an economist and originally a tax consultant, which doesn't indicate a lot of courage (laughs). But this did allow me to join the Board of directors of a large, now listed, trading company at a very early stage. I come from a very modest family background, which is why I decided to learn a safe, down-to-earth profession. I needed that kind of security. Trade and transport have many points of contact; without trade there is no transport and vice versa. This is my connection to the logistics industry.

It was not until I was 50 that I decided to concentrate professionally on my two great passions: music and sport, especially football. For a long time, I was also the CFO of the FCB. In both cases, it is all about entertainment, both take place on a stage, there are so many parallels, you're dealing with artists: ball artists or music artists. It is only when these artists feel comfortable and secure that there is a chance of positive results.

It needs courage to make such decisions, but I was ready and had enough experience. So, I mastered this “change” quite well.

Today, I think I'm so strongly intertwined in the music scene that I will probably not be able to find the fitting puzzle pieces for ITS. It was the right time then, everything just worked. ITS is therefore the most beautiful legacy from my former professional life.

It all sounds so simple, were there any major challenges in the “ITS project”?

There were no challenges for me personally because the management was always so diligent and forward thinking. They always came to us with the solutions. There have certainly been major challenges over the years, but these were mainly borne and solved by the operational team.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

The guys. They are simply great. They are good at their jobs, and they have their hearts in the right place...

Did you expect ITS to develop in such a way?

Not in such a way. I knew it could work, otherwise I wouldn't have taken the risk, I would never have introduced them to investors. However, it would have been presumptuous to expect what happened. I'm therefore all the more pleased that it has happened!

If you had to choose three adjectives for Massimo and Javi, which ones would they be?

Massimo: Impulsive-enthusiastic, social, and strategic.

Javi: Rational, efficient, and clever.

Both are very open-minded and complement each other very well.

Do you have hobbies? A passion? If yes, what are they?

My hobbies are football and music, and I was lucky enough to be able to transform them into my profession.

I also love South Africa. I'm not a winter type (laughs). That's why I kept looking for the right place for me in the southern hemisphere. In Cape Town, it finally clicked. (laughs) It was love at first sight and South Africa has become my second home.

And I love reading - who knows, maybe I'll write a book someday. Just for me. I prefer to leave the stage to my artists, this is not important to me, I would just do it for me.