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Questions & answers


Questions and answers about the current debate on the Zeppelin Foundation

What is the current debate about?

Since 1947, administration of the Zeppelin Foundation and hence the task of fulfilling the Foundation’s purpose has lain with the City of Friedrichshafen. The elected Municipal Council decides how the funds are to be used. In this way, the public indirectly benefit from the financial success of the Foundation companies ZF Friedrichshafen AG and ZEPPELIN GmbH. Albrecht Graf von Brandenstein-Zeppelin has now made an application to Tübingen Regional Council for administration of the Foundation to be taken away from the City and for the Foundation to be returned to its original, pre-World War II form as an independent foundation. The Foundation’s funds would then be used first and foremost for aeronautics and space research as well as for purely charitable purposes.

What does that mean for the City and its residents?

The legal situation is unequivocal and speaks clearly in favor of retaining the Zeppelin Foundation in its existing form. Those currently in charge at the City of Friedrichshafen and the Zeppelin Foundation are democratically legitimated and have administered the Foundation’s assets and income responsibly and in accordance with the Foundation Articles for nearly 70 years. The City will continue as before to responsibly fulfill the task stipulated in the Articles of administrating the Foundation’s funds on a non-profit, charitable basis.

Does the use of the Foundation’s funds accord with the Founder’s intentions?

Most certainly. That has been verified several times in expert opinions and confirmed by the Baden-Württemberg State Parliament. In addition, the Zeppelin Foundation is subject to examination by the financial authorities. The Foundation Articles were most recently confirmed on April 8, 2015. All ongoing expenditure by the Zeppelin Foundation is examined by the financial authorities on a timely and regular basis. According to the Foundation Articles, the funds must be used for non-profit or charitable purposes and they are indeed used for such purposes. There has never been any complaint.

What happens if Graf von Brandenstein-Zeppelin’s application succeeds?

The legal situation is unequivocal, so it would be very surprising if the Regional Council were to decide in the application’s favor. Regardless of the prospects of success, however, Graf von Brandenstein-Zeppelin has already announced in the media that, even if unsuccessful, he plans to exhaust all legal options. In his view, that could take two decades. It would be pure speculation to consider the potential consequences on that timescale.

What will the City Council do now?

The City of Friedrichshafen will continue to fulfill its obligation, undeterred and according to plan, to ensure that the Foundation’s funds are used in accordance with the Foundation Articles. We owe that to the Founder, Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin, as well as to citizens and the workforce of the Foundation companies. And it goes without saying that, despite the announced legal dispute, the City remains open to discussions with the heirs of Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin, including on the topic of accommodating the family archive.