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Luxury Car Heir Finds Meaning Mentoring Artists at Ground Zero

Luxury Car Heir Finds Meaning Mentoring Artists at Ground Zero

Nov 04, 2008
By By: Patrick Cole | Bloomberg | Bloomberg

There must be more to life than this, figured Ulrich Schmid-Maybach, great-grandson and heir of legendary luxury-car designer Wilhelm Maybach, as he sat in a Cannes hotel room four years ago.

That’s when the urge hit him to use some of his family’s millions to help others less fortunate, Schmid-Maybach, 47, said during a recent interview in New York.

In 2006, he launched the Wilhelm & Karl Maybach Foundation in San Francisco, where he was born and raised, and started a mentoring program for young adults interested in careers ranging from the arts to science and medicine.

This fall, he extended the charity’s reach to help young photographers from disadvantaged backgrounds document the rebuilding of the World Trade Center in New York.

“We looked particularly for those who had faced adversity of some kind who need to be connected to people who can help them,” Schmid-Maybach said. “Poverty and talent aren’t mutually exclusive.”

The foundation selected Marika Asatiani, 30, who grew up in Tbilisi, Georgia, and Benjamin Jarosch, 22, the son of a third- generation German baker from Bridgeton, Missouri. Each week, the proteges go into the bowels of the trade center site to capture images of workers and the reconstruction.

On-Site Mentor

Joe Woolhead, lead photographer for Silverstein Properties Inc., who has freelanced for the New York Times and Time magazine, serves as their on-site mentor, giving them pointers on what to shoot.

Company president Larry Silverstein, the trade center’s leaseholder, has erected the new 7 World Trade Center building. He also owns the development rights to build three towers at Ground Zero, to be known as 2, 3 and 4 World Trade Center.

The trade center photographic project mirrored the kind of nurturing Wilhelm Maybach got early in his career more than a century ago, Schmid-Maybach said.

Gottlieb Daimler, who developed the first Mercedes car, took an orphan under his wing. He and Maybach became business partners and built the first high-speed internal combustion engine in 1885. They later produced the first Mercedes in 1901.

Engines for Zeppelins

Karl Maybach, Schmid-Maybach’s grandfather, started Maybach Motorenbau Co. in 1909, building luxury cars in Europe and engines for Zeppelin air ships. The first Maybach automobile was produced in 1918.

The current Maybach line, rated as the top-ranked “ultimate luxury” sedan of 2008 by the New York-based Luxury Institute LLC, includes the Maybach 57, which sells for $348,000. The Landaulet, a posh saloon on wheels with a retractable roof and V12 engine, goes for about $1.4 million.

Schmid-Maybach was a “brand ambassador” for the Maybach, a job that entailed traveling around the world pitching the car and talking up its elite nameplate to wealthy people.

The Maybach Foundation has a $1.3 million budget and gets funding from Daimler AG and Schmid-Maybach’s family. He said the current turmoil in the stock markets and the widespread downturn in the global economy won’t affect his foundation, which also receives money from private donors.

“We’re dealing with high net-worth people,” Schmid-Maybach said.

“Nobody’s calling us up and saying we’re putting off a gift.”

Rag Picker, Dish Washer

The foundation gives the young photographers up to $100,000 for travel expenses to New York, camera equipment and other costs, he said.

Two other photographers, Nicole Tung, a New York University student, and Vicky Roy, who worked as a rag picker and dish washer in West Bengal, India, will start their internships early next year.

Schmid-Maybach said Asatiani was chosen because she had faced so much adversity at home in war-torn Georgia, and “being a woman in that culture offered particular challenges” to developing a career, he said.

“There was no demand for photographers in Georgia, and artists aren’t that respected,” said Asatiani, who became interested in photography while earning a master’s degree in sociology and political science at the London School of Economics in the late 1990s.

Her trade center project has focused on using her camera to document the workers and the changing landscape as they rebuild the new towers “second by second.”

Schmid-Maybach said the foundation is considering whether to publish a book featuring the young photographers’ work.

“The best thing I could see happening in the future is that we produce role models in the communities where the proteges come from,” he said. “We want them to achieve something when they thought there was no hope.”


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