Matthias Wittenburg, a former HSH Nordbank management board member, has created a company he hopes will act as a matchmaker for the medium-sized German businesses known as the Mittelstand.

Companylinks’ 25 employees have gathered 6,500 expressions of interest from potential buyers, including private-equity firms and family offices. They have also been in contact with would-be sellers and are targeting businesses valued at more than 3 million euros ($3.4 million). Using the new database, the firm now expects to complete its first deal soon.

“We use matching platforms to find a partner, a hotel or a car, so why not use one to sell or buy a company?” said the 51-year-old who left Hamburg-based HSH three years ago. Before that, he worked at Commerzbank AG. His team gets paid by the seller of a firm once a deal closes.

Many Mittelstand companies -- the backbone of the German economy -- have struggled with corporate succession in recent years, said Wittenburg. Around 227,000 owners of small and medium-sized companies want to find a heir or buyer by the end of 2020, according to a study by state-owned development bank KfW released earlier this year.

“What makes life difficult is the lack of next-generation entrepreneurs,” said Michael Schwartz, who wrote the report. “This is partly due to the good labor-market conditions,” which are deterring some people from running smaller businesses, he said.

Wittenburg is enjoying the experience of calling the shots at his new company, which also employs two other former HSH bankers. “I no longer have to ask the supervisory board or the works council if I want to do something,” he said. “This kind of freedom is fun.”

Original Story:Ex-HSH-Nordbank-Vorstand versucht sich als Mittelstands-Kuppler

(Fees added in fourth paragraph.)

Reporter on the original story: Stephan Kahl in Frankfurt at skahl@bloomberg.net

Editors responsible for the original story: Erhard Krasny at ekrasny@bloomberg.net, Andrew Blackman

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.