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Christian Nannen – like the father, so not the son

“Krischan”, that’s what his father always called him, says Christian Nannen (61). In remembering the loving nickname, the voice of the entrepreneur becomes a little quieter. There were only a few things that made Christian Nannen, today head of Travelite, one of the largest manufacturers of suitcases and travel bags in Germany, feel emotionally close to his father Henri as a teenager.

Because Henri Nannen, who wrote media history with the invention of the magazine “Stern” and set himself a monument as editor-in-chief legend and later art patron, did not stain himself with fame as a father. The difficult relationship with his “over-father” Henri – the famous journalist died eleven years ago today – is one of the reasons why Christian Nannen took a completely different path in his life.

Nannen doesn’t sound bitter when he talks about that time. Because today he can better understand his father’s constraints and character. And because he has found his own purpose. His wife Gisela, with whom he fell in love with his neighbour’s garden at the age of 19, helped him in this. Four years later the two married. Christian Nannen was welcomed into her family like a son – a beautiful, unfamiliar feeling. After an internship at Gruner+Jahr, he joined his wife’s family business – a company that initially made plastic shopping bags and today sells around 500,000 suitcases and as many travel bags a year under the name Travelite.

With Gisela and her family, Nannen received the “warmth and support of a nest” that he had often been denied as a child. So he did not learn for his Abi with his father, but got tuition from the later mayor and friend of the family Henning Voscherau. The head of the family also kept away heartaches and puberty worries. The head of the family was always fully occupied with the job, and Nannen rarely spent time with his son.

But that was exactly what the teenager with the famous last name longed for. According to Nannen, he felt special closeness on two rather unusual occasions. At the age of nine he was able to experience an exciting drive to Italy with his parents in a Mercedes 300 SL: on the shelf behind the headrests, as the car only had two seats. Similarly exciting for the son and also forbidden: The request to the then 16-year-old to drive home his parents, tired from a long journey, after a holiday in the car. “In these moments we were a family. Otherwise my father lived primarily for his work,” says Christian Nannen. It is also no secret that Henri Nannen was able to stand up to governments and authorities to the bitter end, but that he had difficulty resisting the power of the female sex. The latter because Nannen “was almost naively kind-hearted with women,” said his son Christian. “What his own has often suffered from,” he adds. And he still resents that today: the too late realization that he owed most of his success to his wife Martha. “She endured his great ego, supported him at the same time and kept the family together,” says Christian Nannen. His father’s career began before the Second World War. First he studied art history and then wrote cultural reports for a Munich art publisher. After the war he worked for the “Hannoversche Neuesten Nachrichten” and the “Abendpost”. In 1948 Nannen developed the politically committed magazine “Stern” from the youth magazine “Zickzack”, which became the highest-circulation magazine in Europe. And the life of the journalist until his departure from the G+J board in 1983 after the affair over the forged “Hitler diaries” left its mark. So did the life of his only son.

Christian Nannen now lives very happily in a house in Wellingsbüttel. Daughter Stefanie became a journalist like her grandfather. His son Jan-Oliver now runs the Travelite company and is supported in his daily work by his father. Nannen loves social evenings with his loved ones and has recently moved his holiday home from Mallorca to Sylt: “Because it’s cheaper for the two little grandchildren”, as he says.

From conviction and own experience he had become an “almost bourgeois family man”. He has not subscribed to the “Stern” for a long time. However, his view of the past was not clouded by bitterness. A few years before his father’s death, he made peace with him through many conversations. And that is why he gladly renounced his inheritance in favour of the art collection in Emden, which is now managed by Eske Nannen, the third wife of the journalist legend. Through his function as Deputy Chairman of the Council, Christian Nannen is today closely associated with his father’s foundation.

When Christian Nannen appears with his family at the Henri Nannen Award ceremony of Gruner+Jahr-Verlag in spring, as he does every year, many will not even know who he is. He then modestly takes a seat as “Krischan” in row 14 and commemorates the legacy and work of a legend. Henri Nannen. A man whose name he likes to bear today.

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Christina Cherry
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