Lord of the Lake

With a deep understanding of the grand traditions that echo through the Bavarian Alps and across the shores of Lake Tegernsee, Korbinian Kohler has rekindled the magic and majesty that is the Hotel Bachmair Weissach.

Scan Korbinian Kohler’s CV and it’s easy to see a clear line of commitment to Bavaria through this entrepreneur’s high-profile business career and the hotel he bought on Lake Tegernsee in 2010. When he started out, Kohler was behind a Paris-based distribution company for flexible packaging material, which he successfully sold after ...

“I’m the guy nobody wants as a guest. I’m always obsessing about the details. To my mind a good hotel always has to have an acute sense of detail.”

... three years. He then took on his inheritance—running the family-owned Büttenpapierfabrik Gmund, a world-renowned mill on Lake Tegernsee making high-end specialty papers—with his brother, Florian. Kohler has since also built up a portfolio of real estate properties and private equity stakes—including Hotel Bachmair Weissach, which these days takes up the lion’s share of his time.

Now this 44-year-old father of four—an astute businessman who studied at the London School of Economics, Haute École de Commerce in Paris, and Stern School of Business at New York University—is in the best possible position to promote his birthplace. He lives fulltime on the lake, in a new house he’s just had built on the north shore; by his own admission, he is therefore “always present, obsessing about details” at the hotel.

As to why he cares so much about this particular hotel on Lake Tegernsee, Kohler says he saw its potential early on. “I used to come to Hotel Bachmair Weissach with my grandfather. I can remember thinking what a huge undertaking it was, for one person to look after a place so big. It makes me smile when I think of it now.”

Indeed, Hotel Bachmair Weissach was no lean undertaking when Kohler set about its overhaul: the hotel, which had seen highs and lows since it was founded in 1862, was, says Kohler, not at its best when he took it on. But the context was ripe. “In the 1970s and 1980s, Lake Tegernsee was the high society destination in Germany. Tina Turner, David Bowie—they all came here. But then the appeal faded,” says Kohler. “However, these things move in cycles. In the last 5 to 10 years, Tegernsee seems to have regained some of that old glamor. Wealthy Germans are coming back from Mallorca, and local real estate prices are going up.”

Of course it wasn’t simply a case of ploughing investment into the property; it was also a case of instilling the bones of the place with love. Kohler set about rethinking every detail, including designing every piece of furniture in the guestrooms himself. “I wanted the hotel to be true to Bavaria at every level,” he says, “for people to feel they were experiencing a culture that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.”

Today's Bachmair blends Bavarian tradition with quiet, contemporary design, conveying, in Kohler's own words, the feeling of a "private country club". “I use the term ‘country club’ in relation to the perfect service such establishments strive to deliver," he says, "except I like to think this is a country club with a cooler sense of the here and now.”

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