Wolfgang "Dieter" Tede (1933-)

Wolfgang “Dieter” Tede was a founding partner of the Marine Chartering Company (MCC), a leading international ocean transportation company established in San Francisco.

Updated: November 14, 2013

Introduction

Wolfgang “Dieter” Tede (born April 20, 1933 in Krefeld, Germany) was a founding partner of the Marine Chartering Company (MCC), a leading international ocean transportation company established in San Francisco on May 17, 1955. He served as a shareholder, director, treasurer, and president (1989-1998) of MCC before his retirement from the company in1998 at age sixty-five. He is the current owner of Hopper Creek Winery, established in California’s Napa Valley just outside of the town of Yountville. Prior to the Hopper Creek Winery venture, he was the director and president of Audubon Cellars from 1983-2005.

Tede’s strength as a multi-faceted business owner, financier, and director reflects a staunch support for free trade and the democratic ideals that support global markets; a deep commitment to individual enterprise; an enduring belief in the family and the community as fundamental structures of corporate organization and investment; a keen regard for innovation, technology, and the efficient systems that are derived from their development; and an avid regard for the unique artistic and cultural contributions that principals of thriving private ventures are able to provide for their local communities.

These values are evident in Tede’s book, The First Forty Years: Marine Chartering Company, Inc. (1995). Published by the company at the twilight of Tede’s forty-year career with the Marine Chartering Company, it is an engaging narrative of the formation and rise of MCC. The company was founded as an operator of small (under 5,000 GRT)[1] time-chartered German and Norwegian tankers for the delivery of petroleum products to shallow draft ports in Mexico with return cargoes of molasses to Southern California. Over time, the company grew to its current stature as a world-wide, multi-service ocean transportation brokerage firm specializing in container, refrigerated and dry bulk cargoes as well as tanker services. In the telling of the story, Tede created a compelling documentary of the formative years of an innovative enterprise, one that included the support of family, friends, and associates whose loyal interests in MCC and the life of the San Francisco community endure to the present day.

Solid partnerships are the real test of great entrepreneurial talent in global shipping markets dependent on facilities, commodities, and technologies of varying size and sophistication. The merchant’s tightly coordinated market contracts and the critical role of the shipper in executing successful charters capture the best part of Tede’s career at Marine Chartering. Dieter Tede’s current interests as a Napa Valley vintner and his family’s life-long devotion to the performing and fine arts communities in San Francisco and Bolinas demonstrate a rich and complex set of partnerships, unique and satisfying multi-cultural engagements that endure to the present day.

Family Background

Wolfgang “Dieter” Tede, was born on April 20, 1933, in Krefeld, Germany, a few months after the Nazis seized power. He is one of three children born to Karl Tede (1902-1982) and Hella Breckerfeld Tede (1910-1990). His sisters, Ursula Tede Wertenbruch (born April 27, 1935) and Helga Tede Semmer (born April 22, 1938) currently reside in Berlin.

Dieter Tede’s father completed his doctoral studies in chemistry at the University of Freiburg in 1927. He was the first in his family to attend university and to establish a career as a scientist. His dissertation examined the technical aspects of color film which was later developed by Aktien-Gesellschaft für Anilin-Fabrikation (AGFA), a company founded in Berlin that would specialize in producing chemicals for photography and film. Shortly after completing his degree, Karl Tede took employment with Bemberg Seiden in Krefeld, where he worked as a troubleshooter for the company’s international licensees. At that time, Bemberg was a leading producer of “Bemberg silk,” a fabric made from cotton linter with the quality and texture of silk but with a greater durability than rayon, another popular synthetic fabric of the time. It was particularly popular among manufacturers of ladies’ stockings. Today “Bemberg” is a trademark for a cotton linter fabric known as cupro, used for outerwear, sporting goods, and bedding products.

Karl Tede moved his young family to Berlin in 1934 where he was employed as the technical director of Textilwerke S. Henking. It was a tumultuous time for once-vibrant textile producers in Berlin, still struggling to recover from the calamitous effects of the Depression. Karl Tede directed this textile enterprise in Berlin-Tempelhof until approximately 1950; thereafter and until his retirement in 1968 he ran his own textile business in West Berlin, the Dr. Karl Tede Färberei. In 1938 a branch of Textilwerke S. Henking was established in Seifhennersdorf, a small town in Saxony on the Czech border, to manufacture parachutes for the war effort. Today Spekon in Seifhennersdorf is an internationally recognized producer of synthetic fabrics and commodities for sporting outerwear, including the design and manufacture of parachutes for recreation and the military industry.[2]

Berlin: The War Years

Dieter Tede enrolled at Volksschule Albert Leo Schlageter in Blankenfelde-Mahlow just outside of Berlin in August of 1939. On September 2 Germany declared war on Poland. During the war years Dr. Tede stayed in Berlin, traveling home to his family on weekends. Despite the political situation Dieter recounts memorable summer holidays in Scharbeutz on the Baltic Sea, where his father would spend time with his wife and children. Karl Tede’s work at the textile factory exempted him from service in the armed forces.

In July 1943, Dieter spent time visiting with his grandparents in Hamburg. His grandfather Karl Sr. owned a ship chandlery, F. Reyher Nchfg. It was an exceptional place for young Dieter, who shared his grandfather’s interests in stamp collecting and model shipbuilding. A corner of the shop was devoted to replicas of ships whose items of sailing gear were forged to scale by visiting artisans. During that summer visit the chandlery was destroyed by successive air raids on the city of Hamburg. “Operation Gomorrah” commenced on July 24. It is estimated that a total of 9,000 tons of explosives were dropped on the city, killing and injuring nearly 80,000 civilians.[3]

As air raids over Germany increased in intensity, parents began sending their children away from the big cities. In August 1943 Dieter was sent to stay with relatives in Lankow, near Schwerin (Mecklenburg). He spent one year at the Wilhelm Gustloff Gymnasium in Schwerin, where he completed his first year of secondary education. In 1944 he returned to his family in Berlin; he completed his secondary education in 1951 at the Ulrich-von-Hutten-Gymnasium in Berlin-Lichtenrade.

On May 7, 1945, Germany unconditionally surrendered in Reims, France, at the headquarters of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Tede family had to temporarily take refuge with another family. Karl Tede was ordered to remain at the textile factory in Berlin-Tempelhof during the war’s transition period. The Allied Control Council confirmed plans to divide Germany and the city of Berlin into four occupation zones. Berlin’s southwestern quadrant became the American sector; the cities of Tempelhof and its southern suburb of Lichtenrade were located within the perimeters of this sector. Karl Tede’s work at the factory gave him clearance as a citizen within the American sector; as a result of this and the location of the Ulrich-von-Hutten-Gymnasium in Berlin-Lichtenrade within the American sector, Dieter was able to commute with relative freedom between the western and eastern sectors of the city, where the family residence in Blankenfelde-Mahlow was located.

In July the Allied Control Council announced the formation of the Kommandatura, a governing body with authority over the administration of the city of Berlin. The Potsdam Conference finalized the plans for the division of Germany into allied occupation zones. Tensions continued to build as ideological differences between the eastern and western zones became evident—a situation complicated by millions of refugees seeking refuge during the post-war period. In June 1948, the Russian government imposed a blockade on Berlin, cutting all transportation and food supplies to the city. At the command of American General Lucius Clay, the first C-47 flights of food were received at Tempelhof airport, one of two—later three—airfields located in the western sector, soon thereafter. Within weeks, C-54s with ten-ton capacity were scheduled under the administration of Major General William H. Tunner, the mastermind of “Operation Vittles,” or the Berlin Airlift. The effort to build “air bridges to Berlin” was assisted by the British Royal Air Force and its flights known as “Operation Plainfare.” From June 26, 1948, through September 30, 1949, 276,926 flights were recorded; nearly seven hundred planes were used to haul nearly 2.3 million tons of provisions to the beleaguered city. The distribution of supplies and the maintenance of the aircraft were provided by the citizens of the city; among them were former members of the Luftwaffe. As a young adolescent, Dieter was one of many youths who rode their bicycles to the airport at Tempelhof to help with the unloading of food supplies.[4]

The German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) was established on October 7, 1949, by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED – Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands). Stringent controls on businesses and the education system made life difficult for East German families. In 1950, Dieter closed the door of his family home at Gerhard Liebsch Straße 2 in Blankenfelde and accompanied his parents to live in Steglitz, located in the American sector. It would be forty years before he would return to his family home. Soon after moving, Karl Tede started his own textile business, the Dr. Karl Tede Färberei. Dieter and his classmates worked odd jobs at the factory for pocket money. Eventually the operation grew to twenty employees; Mrs. Hella Tede worked with her husband as the business administrator for several years. Employees were kept busy preparing the loads of old and military clothing they received to dye for post-war use by destitute families.

Hamburg: Gateway to the World

As an outcome of the Potsdam Conference, Germany’s shipbuilding and aircraft industries were dismantled. However, an agreement established in 1944 gave the United States administrative control over the port city of Bremen, and the German shipbuilding company A.G. Weser, a leading company within the prosperous consortium known as the Deschimag. With the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949, and deteriorating relationships with Korea, American political interests favored support of the rebuilding of Germany’s shipbuilding industries, despite the mistrust of their English and French allies. That remarkable reconstruction is the reflection of a strong community coalition of German industry and policy leaders who, in barely ten years’ time, put Hamburg merchant ships and liners in the forefront of global shipping and military providers. Today the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany after Berlin; it is one of Europe’s busiest ports.[5]

Whatever hopes Dieter Tede’s father had that his son would follow a career in the sciences were overshadowed by Dieter’s fascination with trade and commerce, for languages, and for foreign experiences. Karl Tede agreed that Dieter, upon completing secondary school, would not immediately begin studying economics (his primary interest), but instead start out as an apprentice in his grandfather’s place of business in Hamburg. This included matriculating at the Hamburg School of Trade. The vocational training gave Dieter Tede an excellent basic knowledge in several commercial disciplines including warehousing, procurement and sales, accounting, export and import practices, and a three-month internship at the Vereinsbank in Hamburg. He completed his apprenticeship at F. Reyher Nchfg, a company that, after the war, specialized as wholesalers and retailers of bolts and nuts and other industrial fasteners. Dieter graduated in 1954 with a sehr gut (the equivalent of an “A” or 4.0 average in college evaluations).

During that time Dieter took several Spanish courses at the local Berlitz Institute of Languages. In 1953 a distant relative, Alfredo Luesch, traveled from Mexico to the Eppendorf Hospital in Hamburg for the treatment of a cancerous growth. He entertained Dieter with interesting stories about Mexico, which piqued his interest in international trade. On his relative’s recommendation, and with his parents’ approval, Tede prepared for a one-year internship in Guadalajara (Jalisco), Mexico, for the fall of 1954, following the completion of his apprenticeship. Dieter completed language courses at the University Autonoma while working as an internal auditor for Nacional de Drogas, S.A. in Mexico.

When his visa expired a year later, Tede decided to visit the West Coast ports of the United States rather than fly back to Germany. Money was tight, but the fare of the third class buses in Mexico took him as far as Tucson for $50, and from there he caught a Greyhound bus to San Francisco.

San Francisco: Business Beginnings

Arriving in San Francisco, Tede immediately set out to find employment. Searching the yellow pages of the telephone directory, he found the address of Winchester Agencies, a subsidiary of J.H. Winchester & Company of New York. Upon application and with a formal change in immigration status he took a position as a shipping clerk trainee. He leased an apartment with Vern Williamson, a former colleague of Spanish in Guadelajara and a school teacher; they resided at 4115 Lincoln Way in the Sunset District.

Dieter was gainfully employed from September 1955 through July 1956; while at Winchester Agencies he met Jacob “Jake” (Rasmussen) Nebeling, a native of Aarhus, Denmark, who had immigrated to the United States in 1955 at the age of 26. Nebeling served his technical apprenticeship in Copenhagen with A. P. Moeller (Maersk) after his release from his duties as a lieutenant in the Danish Army Royal Guard. While at Maersk, Nebeling met the German ship owner Juergen Weitert, who recommended that the young Nebeling should look up George Kiskaddon in San Francisco.[6] At the time, Kiskaddon was chartering one of Weitert’s small tankers, the Robert Weitert. Jacob’s training at Maersk prepared him for successfully negotiating complex freighting arrangements with clients worldwide. He would eventually succeed George Kiskaddon as president of the MCC, serving from 1973 until his own death in 1989, when Dieter Tede assumed leadership of the organization. Nebeling introduced Tede to George C. Kiskaddon, founder of a new venture, the “Marine Chartering Company: Steamship Operators*Chartering Brokers.” Registered as a California corporation on May 17, 1955, the fledgling company was just beginning to establish itself as a time-charterer[7] for cargoes along California’s Pacific coast.

The Marine Chartering group of companies would eventually succeed in the initiation and development of diverse multi-cultural transactions that influenced the formation of new ventures and partnerships worldwide. The success of such complex exchanges relies on the transport industries, whose critical services within global markets over millennia have depended on ships as essential carriers of goods and products. Strong corporate and government protections for shipping investments and agency operators are the foundations of global shipping ventures; resilient trading partnerships and chartering practices created the momentum required to keep MCC’s strong legacy venture viable over time.

The mission and structure of Marine Chartering, a legacy company with over fifty years of experience in ship management, ship ownership, and ship chartering, reflect those values. Company founder George C. Kiskaddon, and partners Jacob “Jake” (Rasmussen) Nebeling and Dieter Tede, lay the groundwork for an extensive cluster of internal corporate structures, including foreign corporations, for incentive motivation and risk separation. International shipping ventures required such structures to minimize personal risk and to provide attractive incentives for shareholders. The founding partners were later joined by Captain A. L. (“Vicky”) Bleicher, Jorgen With-Seidelin, and current president John Sylvester. Each partner brought to the table a set of talents and instincts finely tuned to the ever-changing shifts in trade relationships and commodities.

From the outset, the Marine Chartering group was organized to engage competitive, low-cost shipping services for exporters along the Pacific coast, the Gulf coast, Mexico, Central America, South America, New Zealand, Australia, Africa, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Micronesia. The formation of MCC and its rapid expansion was buoyed by a rapid resurgence of foreign trade in the post-war period. During the period 1955-1975, the company’s formative years, U.S. exports grew from $14,298 million to $107,652 million.[8] Emerging technologies in ship design and transport created new and unique opportunities for the young company. Containerization and refrigerated cargo ships were key innovations that revolutionized the transport of goods; taking advantage of a growing international market for refrigerated products, the company created niche market services in the transport of tuna and meats, grain, and produce. Other commodities included lumber, zinc concentrates, fish meal, and petroleum products.

In 1954, after four lackluster years job-hunting in New York, Kiskaddon moved to the West Coast to pursue his passion for the shipping industry. He established a company, Cia. Naviera Rosario S.A., registered in Panama, and signed a charter agreement for the use of the German tanker Robert Weitert for five years. This enabled him to secure a five-year contract with Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) for the transport of gasoline, diesel, and kerosene from Los Angeles to shallow-draft harbors at La Paz and Topolobampo located in the Gulf of California. Profits from the arrangement with Petróleos Mexicanos were marginal as funds were used for MCC overhead costs including Kiskaddon’s modest salary.

Kiskaddon had a particular interest in developing South American markets for tuna. That market was suggested to him by Captain Taber Putnam, a retired Navy pilot. Later, when he was confined to a wheelchair with multiple sclerosis, his wife would drive him to the San Pedro Harbor dockside. From there he would watch the daily transactions of what was then the main harbor for Los Angeles. This is where Kiskaddon met him while managing the cargoes delivered under contract by MCC.

San Pedro Bay was declared the official port of Los Angeles in 1897.[9] At the turn of the century, major industries established themselves in the port area to support thriving markets for fish, grain, canned goods, oil, and shipbuilding. The Panama Canal opened in 1914, giving California ports an unprecedented advantage in international trade. During World War II, the port of Los Angeles employed more than 90,000 shipyard workers as it became a main locus for shipbuilding in support of the war effort. During the war years significant innovations occurred in the transport industries, including the use of flat-car and piggyback beds for rail transport. Refrigerated ships were used during both world wars to transport perishables food supplies and troops to locations worldwide. Because of the complexity of building a refrigerated vessel, only two refrigerated ships of forty-two requisitioned by the U.S. Maritime Commission were seaworthy during the 1940s war effort.

On April 26, 1956, the World War II tanker Ideal X sailed out of Port Newark, New Jersey bound for the Port of Houston in Texas. The brainchild of trucking magnate Malcolm P. McLean, the tanker was retrofitted to secure and deliver a load of fifty-eight containers with dry cargo.[10] Two months after the maiden voyage of the Ideal X, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act (also known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, Public Law 84-627) into law on June 29, 1956. In 1955, McLean purchased the Pan-Atlantic Steamship Company, a venture that was reincorporated as Sea-Land Service Inc. in 1960. That year, the Matson Navigation Company of San Francisco, established in 1882 by Captain William Matson, converted the S.S. Hawaiian Citizen into the world’s first all-container vessel. Many of Matson’s early innovations included cellular containerships, intermodal containers, and specialized equipment, including the A-frame gantry frame, that are now industry standards. In 2008, McLean was inducted into the 2008 National Inventors Hall of Fame, an honor that commemorated the efficiencies in intermodal freight transport achieved by containerization, a novel technology that reintegrated and continues to transform the global economy.[11]

Through his contacts in the shipping industry, Kiskaddon learned that there was a keen demand for refrigerated shipping space from South America to California for loads of frozen tuna. Many American tuna fishing vessels had moved away from the California coast to Ecuador and Peru because of declining catches. The canneries were located in San Diego and Los Angeles. During the early 1950s, the logistics of transporting catches of tuna to the Terminal Island canneries, located in close proximity to the San Pedro harbor at Los Angeles, were complicated and untimely. Kiskaddon and Putnam contacted an acquaintance, Thorwald Kyvik of Haugesund, Norway. Kyvik was a herring fisherman who built two 40,000-cubic foot refrigerated (“reefer”) vessels in Strasbourg, the Ice Bird and the Ice Flower.[12] In short time, a joint venture directed by Kiskaddon, Kyvik, and Putnam was established under the newly formed Pacific Reefer Service (PRS), incorporated as a division of Cia Naviera Rosario S.A, in Panama. The first vessel, the Ice Bird, was time-chartered to Pacific Reefer Service at a cost of $600 per diem,[13] with a first delivery scheduled for August 1956.

Lima: Business Development

On May 31, 1956, Dieter signed an agreement with Marine Chartering Company establishing his services beginning July 1 as the sole proprietor of Dieter Tede, Agencia Naviera, in Lima, Peru, representing Pacific Reefer Service for MCC in the specialized transportation of frozen tuna via small refrigerated ships. Taking leave of Winchester Agencies, Dieter was given a one-way ticket to Lima to serve as the owner’s representative in negotiating cargoes for the Ice Bird. Within a few months additional cargoes were chartered so that the Ice Flower was also on assignment to PRS. By 1998, over three thousand tuna voyages were documented under the auspices of Refrigerated Express Service Ltd, a company founded by MCC in the Bahamas during the 1980s to protect the assets of the original Pacific Reefer Service line during the unstable regime of General Manuel Antonio Noriega in Panama.

Like other future MCC ventures, MCC was the manager of Pacific Reefer Service (DBA of Cia.Naviera Rosario in 1956). In the start-up period of corporate formation, the founding partners functioned as the primary shareholders in the different companies in operation. Later, the MCC group of companies was supported by individual shareholders who participated in a particular venture according to their personal ability or willingness to invest in the operation. Great care was taken not to expose Marine Chartering Company to operating risks; rather, the owners of each venture assumed the risk of operation. Each company operated under a management contract with MCC who collected a daily management fee per ship; on occasion, a commission on freights earned by the individual operating company was also consigned to MCC. Each individual company, the majority of which were foreign-based, was fully at risk for the business it assumed, and each maintained its own and separate accounting records.

During the early ventures the company established a basic strategy that became the reiterated pattern for future charters. MCC managed (“brokered”) shipping ventures on a remuneration basis of fees and commissions. As associates, the founding partners formed MCC as a management, agency, and brokerage company. Each individual partner engaged in the formation and management of a particular sector of enterprise, mainly in foreign countries. The services they provided included the time-chartering of vessels and underwriting cargo carriage contracts.

During the post-war period foreign trade began a period of vigorous expansion. As Tede noted in his book, The First Forty Years, from 1955 to 1995 U.S. foreign trade grew from $27 billion to over $1 trillion per annum.[14] During that time period, foreign nationals were developing markets and offering tax incentives to willing investors. Over time, the Marine Chartering group of companies grew to form a matrix of interactive corporate entities supporting a set of primary third party service providers including Marine Chartering, Paxicon, Inc., Refrigerated Express Service, Inc., Centramar Limited, and Polynesia Line Limited.

Dieter served as the sole proprietor of Dieter Tede, Agencia Naviera, until 1959, when he became a shareholder and director of the MCC enterprise. During his career he held various positions including that of director, chief financial officer/treasurer, and president of the MCC group and various related enterprises. His specialty was the development of Latin American trade.

New Horizons: International Business Expansion

Tede’s ease in navigating different cultures, his training in commercial relationships in Hamburg, and his love of languages were strengths that proved indispensable to MCC’s international enterprise. Highlights of his career include the following:

  • From 1964 to1998 Tede served as the president of Refrigerated Express Service Ltd. located in Nassau, Bahamas. The company was first established in 1959 in Panama as the successor to Pacific Reefer Service as an operator of a fleet of refrigerated ships serving Central and South America, Africa, and Japan. RES was re-established in the Bahamas for tax incentives.
  •  Tede co-founded Terminales de Cortes S.A. de C.V. in Honduras in 1968, and remained active as director of that firm until 2006. Central America was the site for innovations including the introduction of containerized shipments, particularly of coffee from Puerto Cortéz to ports in New Orleans where an office was maintained. The company specialized in the transport of silver-bearing lead and zinc concentrates produced by the El Mochito mine of the New York and Honduras Rosario Mining Company. La Bonita, a state-of-the-art multi-cargo 2400 dwt container ship built for Marine Chartering in 1965 at the Jadewerft in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, also carried grain shipments to and from Guatemala and Honduras. By 1989 250K tons of wheat were shipped to Central America.[15]
  • During the 1960s Marine Chartering contracted with Van Camp Sea Food Company, located in Koror within the Palau Islands, for shipments of tuna from Micronesia to California’s Terminal Island canneries.[16] Also, small German refrigerated vessels were used on contract to transport dynamite from Kings Bay in Georgia to mining operations in Northern Australia. This venture gave the MCC group a presence in the island territories. In 1965 the Department of the Navy put out to bid Micronesia’s civilian ocean transportation requirements. In 1968 the administration of the islands was assumed by the Department of the Interior at the insistence of the United Nations which was monitoring post-World War agreements. Again, Marine Chartering Company submitted a bid for the exclusive franchise on the area’s ocean transportation. That successful bid included a comprehensive proposal for the formation of a Micronesian company with shares equally owned by Micronesian partners and U.S. investors. The venture was capitalized at $500,000; shipments began on September 1, 1968, to the Marshall Islands, Ponape, Truk, Saipan, Yap, and Koror, each with a director representing them on the Micronesia Interocean Line (MILI).

    Tede was the director and treasurer of this venture from 1968 to 1972, when it was transferred in response to changing attitudes in Washington D.C. During the furor of the Vietnam War, the islands were regarded as important strategic landmarks; the independence fostered by the MILI program was not considered in the best interests of the mainland. Further, after three years of operation, it was evident that government subsidies were needed to keep freight rates at levels that supported the development of local trade. In 1972 the High Commissioner’s office reached an agreement with MCC and the project was assumed by Trans Pacific Lines Inc., a government-sponsored company. Nevertheless, the company was an exemplary model of a successful commercial “joint venture” between Micronesian investors and Marine Chartering. MILI was controlled by 608 Micronesian shareholders with an equal investiture of 50 percent by American shareholders, 94 percent of whom were employees of MILI or Marine Chartering. During Dieter’s directorship the venture employed 170 staff and earned approximately $6 million in gross freight revenues. It was the area’s largest private enterprise.
  • A similar partnership was established with Guatemalan shareholders in 1972, forming Líneas Marítimas de Guatemala S.A. for the competitive transfer of wheat from U.S. suppliers to flour millers in Guatemala. Dieter served as the co-founder and director of the company until 1989; its first vessel was the M/V Lago Atitlan, formerly the German vessel Rotersand, followed by the Lago Izabal. These acquisitions were made possible by partnerships with the Empacadora de Cereales (EMCECO), the Molinos Modernos S.A., and individual investors.
  • The Pacific Mexico Container Line (Paxicon) was founded in August 1978, riding a boom in demand for Mexican oil. Ocean shipments of dry cargo, refrigerated cargoes, and fuels helped merchants circumvent trucking deadlocks at the border crossings at Mexico. The Tarros Paxicon was a 105-container ship with unique Italian architecture that allowed container trucks to drive on board for discharge. The Mexican peso was devalued in December 1981 by the Portillo government, resulting in a substantial reduction of the volume of available business. Paxicon was obliged to temporarily discontinue shipments from Mexico after nearly one hundred voyages between Los Angeles and Manzanillo. The vessel Tarros Paxicon was sold to Venezuelan interests, but Paxicon continued to operate, building commercial interests in Brazil, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia. Dieter Tede was a co-founder and president of the operation from 1978 until 1998. It is still active today as a U.S.-based operating and risk-taking company within the MCC group of companies.
  • The Cobrecaf Compagnie Bretonne De Cargos Frigorifiques is located at Zi du Moros 7 rue des Sardiniers in Concarneau, France. Cobrecaf owned specially-designed purse seiners for catching tuna on the high seas and refrigerated vessels for the transportation of these cargoes to canneries in France and Italy. Dieter participated as an investor and director of this enterprise from 1986 until his retirement in 1998.
  • Ted Arison was a prominent Israeli-American businessman and the founder of the well-known Carnival Cruise Lines, operational in 1972. Expanding his interests, Arison established Concorde Nopal lines, a Carnival subsidiary providing liner and container services between the U.S. gulf coast region and Central America. The company sustained heavy losses due to inexperience with the complexities of the Latin American market, an overextended net of services, and a weakened Central American market due to intense political turmoil. Prospects were grim, so in 1984 MCC purchased the struggling line for $1 dollar, changing its name to Concorde Line and establishing the Concorde Shipping Co. in Louisiana with a successful invitation to current Central American agents to invest in the venture as shareholders. In 1985 the venture became a division of Paxicon, Inc., providing all-water service from Central America to the northeastern ports of the United States. Keeping faith with his Central American agents despite economic hardship and political distress, Dieter Tede was the director, president, and major shareholder of the Central American line from 1984 until 2003.

At the time of Tede’s retirement, MCC administered nearly sixty employees operating in offices in San Francisco and New Orleans with a gross revenue estimate of $125 million.[17]These revenues included gross revenues (freights) of the various domestic and foreign client companies managed by MCC.

Napa Valley: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

While fully engaged in the shipping business, as retirement loomed on the horizon, Tede began to invest in and learn about the wine business, a natural endeavor living in California. Recalling his great-grandfather Johann William Tede’s successful wine and beer trade in the city of Schwerin, Tede purchased an interest in Audubon Cellars Inc. in Berkeley in 1982. He had met Ralph Montali, a wine merchant from Oakland, in 1981; both were interested in producing good wines. In 1982, Montali contacted Tede and the two agreed on a limited partnership, taking over the assets of the Richard Carey Winery located in San Leandro. The business had a good reputation and in March 1982 Tede and his MCC partner, Jacob Nebeling, invested $50,000 each in the new Montali Winery. The landlord of the new winery, disgruntled over Richard Carey’s fiscal irregularities, immediately cancelled the lease of the land to the new partners. The fledgling winemakers found a property in Berkeley, behind the Pacific Vegetable Oil Co. in close proximity to the Pacific Railroad; six months and $50,000 later, the property was sold to the Japanese Numono Sake Factory. Across the tracks, an empty two-acre lot was vacant adjacent to a bird sanctuary on the bay front; a three-year, triple net lease was signed with the owner. Richard Carey continued with the Montali Winery until his retirement in 1985 when Barry Grushkowitz assumed the tasks of wine-maker.

Formidable construction costs and personal cash outlays to cover a $2 million debt did not deter the group from producing exceptional wines. In 1986, Hubertus von Wulffen, formerly employed by the Buena Vista Winery, was hired as president of the company until 1989; with the reunification of Germany, he returned to his native country. Dieter served as treasurer of the venture; he assumed the presidency upon Hubertus’s departure. In 1988 the company changed its DBA to Audubon Cellars, Inc. With the support of the National Audubon Society and the National Museum of History, the proprietors obtained the rights to a series of monographs of bird paintings by John James Audubon; these reproductions were used as attractive label designs for the wines in distribution. Initially, local sales were slim; the residents of the San Francisco Bay Area were still struggling to recover from the 1987 earthquake. Napa Valley and its reputation as a world-class producer of fine wines invited stiff competition among rival vintners. Nevertheless, Audubon Cellars made a reputation for itself with wines produced from superior premium vineyards, and the production of wines for third party customers such as Sonoma Mission and Spaghetti Red. Other wines produced by Audubon Cellars included noted lines of Cabernets, Zinfandels, and Chardonnays.

In 1996, with his wife Margery’s blessing, Dieter completed the purchase of an 8-acre vineyard and winery located outside of Yountville. Formerly owned by French vintner Edmond Maudiere and Associates, the property produced exemplary stocks for the pressing of fine Merlot wines. Dieter changed the name of the company to Hopper Creek Winery, reflective of the creek that ran along the property’s eastern border. Edmond Maudiere retired from the winery in 1997; the property was leased to Alan Haywood and Noah Taylor who produced a zinfandel from the grapes of the Los Chamizal Vineyards of Sonoma, and a Hopper Creek estate merlot marketed under the Noah Vineyards label.

To reduce rising overhead expenses, in 2005 the Noah Vineyards contract was discontinued, and the Audubon Cellars operation was assumed by the Hopper Creek Winery. In the summer of 2005 the Audubon stocks of wines were stored in a warehouse facility on Mare Island, located within the former Navy yards at Vallejo. In October 2005, Mark Christian Anderson, the former Sausalito civic commissioner, set fire to the warehouse in an angry reaction to a series of legal and financial setbacks. Nearly 4.5 million bottles of wine were lost, representing the lifetime investments of more than ninety Napa Valley wineries and more than forty collectors whose combined losses totaled over $54 million. Small family owners were devastated by the conflagration that destroyed unique blends of wines, many of which could not be reproduced. The Hopper Creek/Audubon Cellars enterprise lost stocks appraised at nearly $1 million. While insurance covered the costs of the stock, it would be several years before the company would develop sufficient reserves of wines for sale.[18]

The recovery of the winery was assisted by the generous support of family members and friends who donated time and energy to the enterprise. Originally the property supported nearly six acres of exceptional Merlot vines. In the late 1980s several hundred vines of Cabernet were interspersed with primary merlot stocks to begin producing Merlot blends. Eventually Hopper Creek produced a well-received Cabernet Sauvignon blend, a Cabernet Franc was introduced, and in the summer of 2012 ten rows of Merlot vines were converted to Malbec.

Award-winning winemaker Barry Grushkowitz and Joseph Ferraro, Dieter Tede’s son-in-law, assist with the harvesting and production of the winery’s annual bulk production of premium wines. In addition to stocks of estate Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons, the winery produces a zinfandel made from harvests purchased from the Los Chamizal Vineyard in Sonoma Valley; a chardonnay from stocks grown at the Sangiacomo Vineyard in Sonoma Valley, and a Petit Sirah from the Jonquil Vineyard in Napa Valley. Approximately one thousand two hundred cases of Estate wines are produced annually and another seven hundred cases of wine are produced from purchased grapes for a total annual production of nearly 23,000 bottles of wine. The grapes and the wine are produced using traditional methods including cluster pressing for white grapes and hand punch downs for red varieties; a membrane press and traditional oak barrels are used to prepare the stocks for bottling.

Songs of the Silverado: Family Life and the Bolinas community

In the summer of 1957, Dieter Tede came through San Francisco en route to Lima, Peru (his place of residence at the time) on a stop-over visit with Marine Chartering president George Kiskaddon. He met Margery Jean Crockett (July 18, 1932 – November 7, 2008) and their friendship was immediate. After a long-distance courtship Margery agreed to travel to Berlin to ask for the Tede family’s blessing on their engagement. The two were married in Chinook, Montana, on January 25, 1959. Dieter became a U.S. citizen in December 1969.

Margery was talented in the literary and musical arts; she completed her master’s degree in English from the University of Montana, and continued a life-long program of study at San Francisco State University, the New England Conservatory, and the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne. She engaged Hans Frölich for vocal study; she also studied with Nino Cormel and Hans Schumann of the San Francisco Opera Company. Kurt Herbert Adler, the legendary general director of the opera, began the world-renowned Merola Opera Program in 1957. Margery was accepted into the program and later debuted with the opera in her role as Suzuki in “Madame Butterfly.” During her lifetime she frequently accompanied Dieter on business trips, singing with opera companies in California, New York, Europe, the Far East, and Latin America. She enjoyed chamber ensembles, summer festivals, and community light opera. She is remembered for her patronage of contemporary composers including Kirke Mechem, Gordon Getty, and Ronald McFarland. She was a personal friend and mentor of Virgil Thompson; she cherished her participation in his opera, The Mother of Us All, a libretto devoted to the life of Susan B. Anthony. With Charles Shere, she co-edited a series of Virgil Thompson’s Bay Area correspondence under the title Everbest Ever. She was the president of the American Concert Association and a supporter of the Napa Valley Music Associates. It was at Margery’s insistence that Dieter completed his degree in economics from San Francisco State College on June 3, 1971.

While Dieter was away, Margery devoted her time and energies to caring for their children Kirsten, Nikola, and Karl. The children became a part of the parcel of business trips and professional engagements that took the family to ports all over the world. The youngsters traveled whenever possible with their parents. Most memorable were the annual trips to Germany where the girls spent summers with their paternal grandparents, “Oma” and “Opa,” and to Montana to visit with maternal relatives.

Kirsten, the eldest daughter, was born in 1959. She displayed an early aptitude for mathematics and the sciences, graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1982 with a degree in civil engineering, and completed her master’s degree in chemistry from San Jose State University. Nikola was born in 1961; like her sister, Nikola had an early aptitude for mathematics and the sciences and completed her medical studies at the University of California at Davis, Smith College in Massachusetts, and George Washington University in Washington, D.C., eventually settling in San Francisco (2000) as a pediatric cardiologist at California Pacific Medical Center. Karl was born in 1966. He shared his father’s interests in architecture and the visual arts, and a passion for business and economics. He spent a year in Chile at Antofagasta and Valparaiso, completing a shipping internship with the Ultramar Group. Today he is an ocean transportation specialist and vice president of Marine Chartering Co., Inc., in San Francisco.

Soon after his marriage in 1959, Dieter had an opportunity to purchase a parcel of land in the town of Bolinas in Marin County, twenty-eight miles northwest of San Francisco. The land is still in the Tede family’s possession; it has been a cherished weekend refuge for the family for over fifty years. Two houses were built on the property; the first was built from a pre-designed house kit, approved for Marine County construction. Dieter assembled the cabin over nine months’ time. Later, a second home with sweeping views of the Pacific was built with the help of an architect; its living spaces are simply detailed in the luminous symmetry that is characteristic of Japanese home design.

Dieter and Margery Tede purchased a home in the Cow Hollow District of San Francisco’s Pacific Heights suburb in 1966. Their shared love of the many attractions of the San Francisco Bay area provided ample opportunity for a rich social life for the family. The Tedes were avid patrons of the performing arts and the fine arts, making, for example, contributions of time and support to major projects at the local Bolinas Museum. Dieter is a current member of the Bolinas Rod and Boat Club and the St. Francis Yacht Club. He is also a director of the Independent Institute of Oakland, a position he has held since 2006. The Institute, originally established in 1986 in San Francisco, California, is the brainchild of David A. Theroux who began an independent think tank in his home garage, creating the groundwork for a world-renowned public policy research institute. Today the Institute, with offices in Oakland, California and Washington, D.C., is a privately-funded forum for cutting-edge independent scholarship founded on conservative, libertarian principles. Tede was also a director of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation of New York, an affiliate of the Alfred C. Toepfer Stiftung. The organization supports European talents in the fields of art, culture, and science including nature conservation and youth programs. The New York office closed its doors in 2007, the seat of the Alfred C. Toepfer Stiftung is in Hamburg, Germany. After 1998 Tede became a member of the Family Wine Makers of California, the Wine Institute, and Napa Valley Vintners, but never sought official positions in these organizations.

Conclusion

The November 15, 2012, edition of the Huff Post Small Business report featured an article by Bryan Pearce, Americas Director for Ernst & Young LLP. Commenting on a report prepared by Ernst & Young and the Kauffman Foundation, Pearce noted that strong entrepreneurial ventures have eight key factors in common. These include an ability to move forward in the face of real or perceived risks, a great belief in the people they work with and for, an ability to rebound quickly from bad circumstances and decisions, a capacity to build teams that allow each player to focus on what they do best, a strong dedication to global markets, a strong capacity to raise capital for key ventures, and a deep regard for the culture and traditions of the companies they create and work for.[19]

These key factors provide a rubric for recognizing the versatility and resilience of Dieter Tede’s contributions to the expansion of the Marine Chartering enterprise, and the success of his Hopper Creek winery. During the post-World War II period many German immigrants came to America knowing that conditions in the new country could not be worse than what they left behind. In Dieter’s case, in the war’s aftermath his family realized the limits of opportunity available to him in early adulthood. They were also quick to recognize his interest in global trade and commerce. The family’s social standing and modest financial resources were the result of an intergenerational familial culture that emphasized the value of individual enterprise. Dieter’s father, mother, and grandfather were all competent in business circles with experience in local and international trade. Self-employment was a factor that enhanced the Tede family’s stature both in German society and abroad.

From the outset Dieter Tede followed his instincts. He mastered his talent for foreign languages and spent time apprenticing in Hamburg, one of the great international centers of Europe. Moving to San Francisco was a calculated risk that paid off handsomely. Gifted with a passion for and an understanding of multi-cultural market exchanges, Dieter early created a niche for himself, developing shipping partnerships for tuna in Latin America and the Pacific coast region. That success complemented the goals of his lifetime business partners George Kiskaddon, Jake Nebeling, Jorgen With-Seidelin, Captain Arie Ludwig (“Vicky”) Bleicher, and current president John Sylvester. One of the concluding chapters of Tede’s book, The First Forty Years, titled “The People Who Make it Work,” paid tribute to the men and women who came to Marine Chartering and stayed, playing unforgettable supporting roles in the founding of the company. Many key staff members, including founding partners Nebeling, With-Seidelin, and Bleicher, were European natives with solid professional backgrounds in ship agency and management. Siegfried (“Fred”) Walz, a German native, was orphaned during the war; he and his sister found their way to the United States where he worked as an assistant to Captain Bleicher in the refrigerated cargo trades. Other employees and their family members shared a common experience as post-World War II immigrants who found in MCC a place to thrive as global citizens. In a September 3, 2012 letter to the author Tede wrote: “While it is always possible to improve, MCC prides itself on its progressive and humanistic relationship between management and staff. The ownership of the company by its employees fosters a strong atmosphere of mutual trust and support, lending great strength to our efforts in the marketplace.”[20]

Dieter Tede also wrote: “The truth is that we responded to opportunities which came our way, in some cases a simple telephone call from a domestic or overseas party making an inquiry about potential shipping costs which we at MCC could calculate on the basis of the international freight markets and actual ship costs which we had the means to determine rather quickly through our international connections with London, Hamburg, or Oslo, and later Tokyo and Seoul, Korea.” Focusing on key commodities uniquely suited for refrigerated and dry cargo transport systems, the MCC group created a tightly-coordinated global network of shipping exchanges. Today the company’s prestige as a premier international ocean transportation company is founded on sixty years of experience in key services including ship brokerage, joint venturing, and vessel management.

Finally, one key indicator common to talented entrepreneurs is the ability to build a team where each individual is able to focus on what he or she does best. That value was shared by Margery Tede who, with Dieter, cared for and nurtured a family where each person was encouraged to embrace his or her multi-cultural ties and to excel in his or her talents. Moreover, Mrs. Tede was an able business partner, supportive of Dieter’s Napa Valley ventures. That support included her support of using family financial reserves to provide working capital for the new venture. Today the Hopper Creek winery continues to be a family venture.

Notes

[1] A GRT, or “gross registered ton,” is a term by which a ship is measured. One GRT measures 100 cubic feet, and the measure includes all inside space of a ship, whether used for cargo, machinery, or crew accommodation.

[2] See http://www.spekon.de/en/company.html (accessed February 8, 2013).

[3] Jochen Bölsche, “So muss die Hölle aussehen,” Der Spiegel, January 6, 2003, (accessed February 8, 2013).

[4] For more information on the Berlin airlift, see, for example, the collection at the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum (accessed February 8, 2013).

[6] Of Kiskaddon, Dieter Tede writes “George Kiskaddon’s view of the world was certainly not that of the usual businessman. The pursuit of profits was for him a matter of secondary importance. In his seafaring years he had traveled to many impoverished countries, and his experiences had instilled in him a strong sense of what social justice should be. He had firm ideas of how general conditions should be improved under free market conditions. These ideas were based on the responsibility of the strong and successful to lead by example. He was not a socialist, although he had, as an adolescent in his thirties, voraciously absorbed left-leaning literature. Profits were welcome, and they were gladly shared with those who shared in the risks of the venture. He set his own pay at a moderate level, and he cared greatly for the welfare of the staff. However, Kiskaddon was also keenly aware of the need to retain and build capital. He saw a strong purpose in building a solvent company, with ownership vested in key staff,” The First Forty Years, 136f.

[7] Time-chartering is a standard shipping practice whereby a third-party agent hires a vessel for a particular length of time, paying the owner a fee for the use of the vessel. The agent also assumes the costs of fuel and port charges. The bill of lading is a standard legal document that clearly specifies the specific rates, rights and responsibilities of all parties engaged in a particular shipping voyage. The charterer is typically held responsible for the whole of a ship’s carrying capacity to a specified port over a given length of time.

[8] Roughly equivalent to $116 billion and $436 billion, respectively, in 2010 USD. Unless otherwise noted, all 2010 USD values calculated by using MeasuringWorth (accessed February 8, 2013).

[9] For more information on the Port of Los Angeles, see http://www.portoflosangeles.org/idx_history.asp (accessed February 8, 2013).

[11] See http://www.invent.org/hall_of_fame/384.html (accessed February 8, 2013).

[12] For more information on reefer ships, see http://www.crosstree.info/Documents/reefer%20vessels.pdf (accessed February 8, 2013).

[13] Roughly $4,800 in 2010 USD.

[14] Roughly equivalent to $220 billion and $1.43 trillion, respectively, in 2010 USD.

[15] Cf. http://www.termisa.com/termisa-eng.html (accessed February 8, 2013).

[16] Micronesia is an assembly of islands in the western Pacific Ocean that covers an area as large as the continental United States. This territory was placed as a trust under U.S. protection by the United Nations after World War II.

[17] Roughly $167 million in 2010 USD.

[20] Efforts at MCC to improve and maintain good relations between management and staff include a profit-sharing retirement plan (extended to all salaried employees, not just the top associates, after one year of service); company-sponsored tickets to the opera and the symphony; a stock ownership plan; a salary-deferral plan permitting employees to save pre-tax dollars; and a generous medical plan. See The First Forty Years: Marine Chartering Company, Inc., 29.

 

Cite this Entry

APA Style

"Wolfgang "Dieter" Tede." (2018) In Immigrant Entrepreneurship, Retrieved October 23, 2018, from Immigrant Entrepreneurship: http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=149

Chicago Style

Breting-Garcia, Victoria M. "Wolfgang "Dieter" Tede." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 5, edited by R. Daniel Wadhwani. German Historical Institute. Last modified November 14, 2013. http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=149

MLA Style

"Wolfgang "Dieter" Tede," Immigrant Entrepreneurship, 2018, Immigrant Entrepreneurship. 23 Oct 2018 <http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=149>

Dieter Tede, n.d.

  • Audubon Cellars wine series labels
  • Postcard advertising Bemberg stockings, late 1920s
  • Tede & Schlie brewery located in Schwerin, n.d
  • Dieter Tede's father, Karl Tede, with his daughters Ursula and Helga, 1939

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