By Lars Kreye
I arrived a few minutes late for my interview with Corinna Graf, so I wasn’t surprised that I had to sit in the waiting room. Later, I climbed a spiral staircase to her office on the first floor of the 30-metre-high tower from where this 38-year-old manages Puerto Portals. Corinna Graf is a busy woman who directs the marina with great attention to detail. The port was founded by her father Klaus Graf, the industrial magnate (the Teka group of companies). After his death in 2014, she took over managing the business. She recently renewed the port’s concession for a further 35 years. She now must pay an annual fee of €2.5 million, whereas before it was only around €6,000. In addition, she has agreed to a retroactive payment of €9.1 million.
Ms. Graf, are you the most indebted woman on the island?
(Laughs) I would prefer not to think about that. But you can be sure it’s true. We have entered into an important commitment and done everything possible to make it happen. There’s no business without risk, it’s part of being an entrepreneur. It doesn’t scare me.
All the ports have to pay significantly more in concessions now. How can they justify the small amounts that were paid over such a long period of time?
It’s all a matter of perspective, when the previous agreement was made, €6,000 was a lot of money. Today Puerto Portals is doing very well, there are a lot of people, clients and activity, but when it all started there was just the sea. At first we were literally throwing money into the sea when we started to build the port. We didn’t even know if it was going to work, if the clients would come. In those days the boats were all in Palma, there was no port in this area. That’s why €6,000 was a great deal of money and in fact the fee was adjusted for inflation and sometimes increased, but obviously not like now. €2.5 million is a huge amount, that’s why we have to work really hard, but that’s just the way it is.
There’s an English expression – ‘Try walking in my shoes’ – when one tries to share a difficult experience. What is your opinion of your father after walking in his shoes for some time?
I think they are different shoes. I think the same of him now as I did back then. That he was a good person, a great businessman and very intelligent. I learned a great deal from him. The same goes for my mother, who always helped me with advice. I am incredibly proud of them both. But my father’s shoes were definitely different to mine.
In what way?
We all have our own way of doing things. If someone tries to imitate someone else, they won’t be successful. We all have our own qualities and characteristics. When children copy their parents, they just end up becoming frustrated as the times and conditions change. The most important things are the values that parents teach their children, which they need to believe in.
Your mother once said that the idea of starting a port came to your father after he moored his motorboat in Mallorca at the end of the 1970’s and saw it was treated like a glorified filling station.