After Making Millions for Berlin Zoo Knut's Svengali Loses His Job
He was the man who made Knut a star. But now Berlin Zoo's business director is losing his job -- because he made too much money.
Berlin Zoo's business director Gerald Uhlich turned Knut into a moneymaking machine -- and has now lost his job as a result.
The zoo's supervisory board decided on Monday evening not to extend Uhlich's contract. Although his current contract runs until the end of 2007, Berlin newspapers reported Wednesday that Uhlich had already cleared his desk.
Uhlich told reporters Tuesday that he had reached an "amicable" agreement with the zoo about leaving his position early. But the real reason is apparently a long-running dispute with his co-director, Bernhard Blaszkiewitz, over how the zoo should be run.
Uhlich wanted the zoo to make money, while Blaszkiewitz -- a zoologist by training -- wanted the zoo to concentrate on breeding programs and protecting species. Blaszkiewitz said in January of this year that he was skeptical of turning the zoo into an "amusement park." The two are reported to have been on bad terms for some time. With Uhlich's departure, the zoo will lose its double management structure.
"I have nothing to be ashamed of," Uhlich told the news agency DPA Tuesday, pointing out that the zoo has become profitable under his watch and is seen "in a very positive light in Germany and around the world." More than 2 million people have already visited Knut since he was born in December 2006 and the zoo's attendance figures are expected to show a 30-percent increase for 2007.
Uhlich, who has been with the zoo since 2004, was largely responsible for turning the polar bear Knut into a global star. He registered the trademark "Respect Habitat.Knut" which allowed the zoo to license the lucrative Knut brand to other companies. He was behind Knut merchandizing deals for soft toys, t-shirts, books, songs and even confectionary, and is estimated to have increased the zoo's annual revenues from 8 million to 10 million.