Long-time Rotax CEOs Helmut Rothe and Karl Pötzlberger


In 1975 an era comes to an end. Long-time CEO Helmut Rothe steps down and closes a Rotax chapter that he played a leading role in writing over more than 3 decades. Having grown up in modest circumstances, the native of Saxony successfully completes his education and builds a career as a metalworker with Fichtel & Sachs, rising quickly to the rank of foreman.  In 1945 he becomes Rotax-Werk works manager in Wels and brings much skill and dedication to the rebuilding of the business. With only a few employees, he demonstrates the right technical and commercial instincts. Under his leadership, the company quickly becomes one of the foremost engine producers for agricultural vehicles. But he also propels Rotax to the conquest of new product sectors, to its first motorsports successes and to the establishment of the necessary contacts with international business partners. His talent for languages – he speaks English, Italian and French – help him convert his negotiating skills into contracts and profits. Under his leadership, Rotax becomes a powerful and internationally recognized business. His colleagues and employees are impressed by his commitment, his flair for business and manufacturing and the way he embodies the spirit of Rotax. Leopoldine Hummelbrunner remembers: “For him, the spirit of Rotax was solidarity – and that anything was possible.” After his retirement in 1975, sole responsibility for the Gunskirchen site rests with Karl Pötzlberger.


Wels native Karl Pötzlberger is taken on by Rotax in 1949 and is initially promoted to General Management before switching to Industrial Relations and Exports, where his is largely responsible for the company's successful collaboration with Joesph A. Bombardier, becoming a close confidant of the firm's Canadian founder. In 1970 he is promoted to CEO in Gunskirchen. “Karl spoke many languages, he was the interpreter between us. For me, Rotax is part of our family”, remembers Bombardier CEO Laurent Beaudoin. His unflagging dedication – his colleague Gerhard Niederwimmer describes him in an interview as an “incredible workaholic” – turns Rotax from a mainly domestic operation into a true export business. Initial contracts from Italy and France are later joined by deals with Canada and Asia. Pötzelberger is affable, straightforward and always on the level – as Alfred Holub, former Personnel Manager at BRP-Rotax, remembers, reminiscing about one extraordinary experience with the Rotax CEO: “He was such a simple person, for instance where clothes were concerned: When I went with him to the Chamber of Commerce, people always thought I was the boss, because I was carrying a briefcase and Pötzlberger was often underdressed. (..) And here’s another story. I used to wear made-to-measure jackets. One day I was out and about in the plant, and when I came back, my jacket was gone. Pötzlberger came by and I thought, wow, he’s well-dressed today! Then I realized that he was wearing my jacket. He explained that Secretary of State Withalm had paid an unannounced visit and that because Pötzlberger had only been wearing a shirt, he had borrowed my jacket. So we shared a jacket for a time!”

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