Georg III and the Ethiopian adventure
Since George III Mautner Markhof always endeavoured to set up companies abroad, he decided in 1937, at the end of the Italo-Ethiopian War, to acquire a dilapidated brewery in Addis Ababa. So the cousins Georg III and Manfred I personally, as equal partners, took over the largest brewery in Africa, which was to be called San Giorgio in memory of Floridsdorf. Since this could only be done together with an Italian partner (it was decided in favour of a Roman lawyer) via a very complicated company structure, there were great difficulties starting and maintaining operations.
The brewery was in a sorry state. A desolate building with equally desolate machines awaited the new owners. In October 1937, machine foreman Weissenhofer from Schwechat was sent to Ethiopia with his son Wilhelm to carry out the necessary technical renovations. The equipment of the St. Georg Brewery, which had been closed, was used. The water quality was so miserable that it seemed downright impossible to brew a decent beer. Later it turned out that the African barley was also completely unsuitable, so that it had to be imported from Schwechat. Wilhelm Weissenhofer finally succeeded with three other Europeans and around twenty local workers to renovate the brewery and improve the water quality. From 1938 on it was possible to produce a decent beer, although the circumstances could not have been more difficult. The language barrier was enormous, it was only with great effort that it was possible to communicate to the locals what was expected of them. The competition was considerable; foreign beer imports stormed the market.
In 1940 Gerhard Mautner Markhof came to see if everything was going well and Afredo Conte della Feld (married to Erika Hebra, a great-granddaughter of Adolf Ignaz) was appointed director. Just when the first successes were showing and Amedeo Duke of Aosta, Vicerory of Italian East Africa, had honoured the brewery with his visit, the victorious English conquered the country in 1941, which in turn meant the end of the brewery. Emperor Haile Selassie returned to his country, declared the brewery confiscated on the spot and had it transferred to his wife immediately. George III and Manfred I had to convince the emperor after 1945 that the brewery was an Italian company, but indeed was entirely Austrian-owned and that Austria was not considered an enemy of the British. After numerous attempts at mediation and proceedings at international courts, which were very expensive for the Mautner Markhof family, Haile Selassie finally wanted to speak to Georg III personally. This conversation between the god-like emperor and the “little” entrepreneur, who worked with “Wiener Schmäh” and tactical breaks in conversation, should not have lacked a certain bizarre. According to tradition, Georg III annoyed the very linguistic Haile Selassie furthermore with endless translations in three languages and so he finally managed to convince him of his point of view. Manfred I and Georg III received compensation that, although not quite the amount requested, was at least satisfactory. At the same time Wilhelm Weissenhofer, who had been taken prisoner of war and had been interned since 1941, was allowed to return to Austria. Even today, a beer in Ethiopia reminds of the Mautner Markhof era.