PRO­JECT­ING THE REAL PIC­TURE

CINE­MATOG­RA­PHER AND DI­REC­TOR FRITZ OFNER, CREATOR OF A DOC­U­MEN­TARY MOVIE ‘WEAPON OF CHOICE’ WITH EVA HAUSBERGER, LIFTS THE LID ON AUS­TRIA’S SE­CRE­TIVE GLOCK PIS­TOL EM­PIRE.

The Gulf Today - Business - - FEATURES - SO­PHIE MAKRIS WRITES

From Hol­ly­wood to hip hop, it’s the weapon that is wielded by cops and out­laws alike. The Glock pis­tol has achieved global cult sta­tus but the busi­ness is still shrouded in mys­tery in its na­tive Aus­tria. A new doc­u­men­tary about the Glock, ti­tled “Weapon of Choice,” says that since it was in­vented in the early 1980s by a pre­vi­ously un­known Aus­trian en­gi­neer called Gas­ton Glock, the brand has been the ob­ject of a “cult of se­crecy”.

Di­rec­tors Fritz Ofner and Eva Hausberger have tried to shed some light on the com­pany, whose 89-year-old founder has al­ways shunned pub­lic­ity.

“Hun­dreds of press ar­ti­cles (on Glock) have ap­peared in Aus­tria but they’re al­most all about the com­pany’s char­i­ta­ble ac­tiv­i­ties or so­ci­ety events,” Ofner said.

That could be be­cause the irm is not ret­i­cent about tak­ing ac­tion in the courts against those it deems to have un­fairly dam­aged its rep­u­ta­tion.

Ofner said the ilm­mak­ers were threat­ened with le­gal ac­tion when the doc­u­men­tary was in its early stages, fol­lowed by a let­ter from the com­pany’s lawyers once it was in­ished, “ask­ing for a list of all the peo­ple we had worked with on the ilm”.

That “sword of Damo­cles” meant a year’s de­lay to the re­lease date, said Ofner. The strict se­crecy around the Glock em­pire is of a piece with the char­ac­ter and back­ground of its mould-break­ing founder, said Ofner.

In the early 1980s Gas­ton Glock was run­ning a busi­ness mak­ing knives and cur­tain rods when he de­cided to an­swer a call for ten­ders put out by the Aus­trian army, which wanted to up­date its pis­tols.

He de­vised a irearm that rev­o­lu­tionised the ield: made largely of non-metal com­po­nents, “lighter, eas­ier to take apart, more re­li­able, able to carry more bul­lets” than other brands.

“You can re­ally com­pare Glock — who had no ex­pe­ri­ence at all in irearms — to Steve Jobs who in­vented the irst Ap­ple prod­uct in his garage,” says Ofner.

Once the con­tract with the Aus­trian army was in the bag, the com­pany’s worth soared when it en­tered the Amer­i­can and then the global mar­ket, be­ing adopted by po­lice, gang­sters.

Be­tween 2014 and 2017, the com­pany’s worth is es­ti­mated to have risen by al­most 50 per cent to 464 mil­lion eu­ros ($538 mil­lion).

It em­ploys some 1,325 peo­ple in four pro­duc­tion sites, in­clud­ing at its head­quar­ters in the town of Deutsch-wa­gram, 20 kilo­met­trs out­side Vi­enna. Amer­i­can pop cul­ture in par­tic­u­lar has helped Glock at­tain its iconic sta­tus. “It’s a new weapon which co­in­cided with a new mu­sic: some hip hop and gangsta rap artists im­me­di­ately adopted this min­i­mal­ist black ob­ject, which it­ted so well with their aes­thetic,” Ofner said.

And as luck would have it, Gas­ton Glock’s sur­name of­fers am­ple rhymes: lock, pop, cop, shock, drop...

“At the end of the 1990s, Glock was the most men­tioned brand in the Amer­i­can Top 50,” ac­cord­ing to Ofner.

As for se­cu­rity forces, the Glock is also used by most US po­lice forces as well as the US, Iraqi and Nor­we­gian armies.

The ilm adds to the air of in­trigue sur­round­ing the irm with in­ter­views with two no­to­ri­ous ex-as­so­ciates of the com­pany — the only ones who would talk to the ilm­mak­ers.

Gas­ton Glock’s for­mer right-hand man in the United States, Paul Jan­nuzzo, was jailed for fraud be­fore be­ing re­leased in 2013 when the con­vic­tion was quashed un­der the statute of lim­i­ta­tions.

Jan­nuzzo said he was the vic­tim of a vendetta on the part of his old em­ployer. The ilm­mak­ers also trav­elled to a Lux­em­bourg prison to in­ter­view Charles Ew­ert — also known as “Panama Charly” — who is cur­rently serv­ing a 20-year sen­tence for at­tempt­ing to have Glock killed in 1999 af­ter they fell out over inan­cial dis­agree­ments.

Faced with a cast of such larger-than-life characters, the di­rec­tors don’t even at­tempt to get into the story of Glock’s ex-wife Helga, with whom he has been em­broiled in a le­gal bat­tle for years over the terms of their di­vorce.

Now re­mar­ried to a woman 50 years his ju­nior, the bil­lion­aire has lately been in­vest­ing in horse-rac­ing, open­ing a vast eques­trian com­plex in south­ern Aus­tria.

The Glock Horse Per­for­mance Cen­ter plays host both to races and red-car­pet events graced by the likes of Rob­bie Wil­liams and Naomi Camp­bell.

Ac­cord­ing to an in­ves­ti­ga­tion car­ried out jointly by the Dossier web­site and Aus­tria’s Der Stan­dard news­pa­per — and which was pub­lished to co­in­cide with the ilm’s re­lease — three govern­ment min­is­ters from the far-right Free­dom Party (FPOE) have been hosted at the Cen­ter as guests of the Glocks.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.