The entrepreneur York Prince zu Schaumburg-Lippe says his deceased son had his inheritance betrayed – BUNTE about a family drama in the finest entrepreneurial circles.
His son had been dead two days when the phone rang at York Prince zu Schaumburg-Lippe. The caller who brought the shocking news had to help solve an organizational problem: the undertaker who was supposed to cremate Nicolai had refused to accept the job. He asked for the father’s signature. Through this call, Prince York of Schaumburg-Lippe learned that his son had died on December 4, 2016 at the University Hospital in Münster. Nicolai Prinz zu Schaumburg-Lippe was 27 years old when his organs failed. The doctors gave multiple organ failure as the cause of death. In consensus with his former nanny, the intensive therapy had ended. York later learned this from Schaumburg-Lippe from the doctor’s report.
Today, the entrepreneur who lives in Düsseldorf sits between a dozen files in which hundreds of pages are filed. All these papers, contracts and letters document the short, tragic life of his son. The 62-year-old created the meticulously arranged collection in order to understand how the drama could have happened. “I don’t know what really happened. There are too many inconsistencies and lies,” says Schaumburg-Lippe to BUNTE.
Susanne Seidensticker: When she became pregnant, blood tests revealed a shocking result
Nicolai-York Gerhard Konstantin zu Schaumburg-Lippe – that’s the full name – was lucky with his origins. He was born a prince, his father Prince York zu Schaumburg-Lippe comes from a noble family that existed as a principality between 1647 and 1946 in what is now Lower Saxony. His mother, Susanne Seidensticker, was the daughter of a wealthy textile manufacturer from Bielefeld. Even as a young woman, she held shares in the Gebr. Seidensticker clothing factory KG, which produces the shirts with the embroidered black rose. History and future, noblesse and money – a legacy that could promise a carefree life and a financially secure future. But for Nicolai it proved to be a burden. York zu Schaumburg-Lippe and Susanne Seidensticker met in Bielefeld at the end of 1983.
The manufacturer’s daughter had just returned from California and was supposed to do a fashion internship in Paris and then study. In September 1986, the couple married at Bückeburg Castle, the family’s ancestral seat, which is now run by cousin Alexander Fürst zu Schaumburg-Lippe. After the wedding, Susanne, who now bore the title of princess, began to work in her parents’ company. When she became pregnant in the summer of 1988, blood tests revealed a shocking result.
Doctors expected the child to die early
The young woman was infected with the HIV virus. “Her parents decided that Susanne should live in California. I gave my father my word of honor not to say anything about the reasons why she was moving. I didn’t even tell my parents the truth,” York told Schaumburg-Lippe, who after his wife’s move commuted between Bielefeld and La Jolla, California. Their son was born on April 23, 1989 in California – he was also HIV positive. “When Nicolai was two, we separated, but maintained a friendly relationship.” When the young mother’s health continued to deteriorate, she returned to Bielefeld. Susanne zu Schaumburg-Lippe died of AIDS in December 1992 at the age of 31. According to her parents’ official statement, the deadly virus was transmitted during a blood transfusion.
The fate of son Nicolai now depended on a notarial contract (UR-Nr. 32/1993), which York zu Schaumburg-Lippe and his parents-in-law concluded on January 27, 1993. After that, Nicolai’s father renounces the inheritance completely and hands over custody of his son to his grandparents. In return, Gerd and Gisela Seidensticker undertake to take care of their grandson and to cover “the costs of his maintenance, including any costs for comprehensive medical care”.
York Prince zu Schaumburg-Lippe: “I trusted my in-laws”
Notary Manfred Streit Börger assured the guardianship court in Bielefeld that “Nicolai-York would probably die prematurely.” That’s why they want to avoid the Seidensticker inheritance falling to the father after Nicolai’s early death. “None of those involved want that,” says the brief, which is accompanied by a list of assets, including a gold Rolex watch, a bracelet made of diamonds, emeralds and rubies, a long pearl necklace, two accounts with around 32,000 marks and of course the company shares , whose value Gerd Seidensticker put at 100,000 marks. A few days later, the parties involved signed a supplementary contract (UR no. 52/1993), which stipulated that Nicolai would receive his mother’s estate if he reached the age of majority. The market value of the jewelry and antiques was given as 150,000 marks.
He was often asked why he gave up custody of his child at the time, York tells Schaumburg-Lippe BUNTE. “I trusted my in-laws and wanted the best for my son, who doctors predicted would have a short life,” he replies. “I wanted him to spend those years in a stable, loving family, which I couldn’t have offered him back then.” Nicolai, now a child without parents, grows up in Bielefeld. However, the grandparents do not let their grandchildren live in the family villa, but pay the nanny Anneliese, who lives with the boy in a house in Grewenbrink in Bielefeld-Dornberg. Years later, when the property was appraised, the building was found to be infested with mold and mildew – in this condition it was uninhabitable, the appraiser warned.
“Omi, I’m just scared”
After graduating from business school, Nicolai works as a messenger in the family business, earning 1,500 euros a month. He rarely has contact with his father. The trouble begins when Nicolai asks questions and worries about his future. In the meantime, contrary to expectations, he has grown into a teenager and is in relatively stable health. In 2012, his uncle, Oliver Seidensticker, the current head of the company, demanded a complete renunciation of inheritance. In return, he promises a monthly life annuity of 7,000 euros after the death of his grandfather. “I wanted my nephew to get a pension,” explains Oliver Seidensticker to BUNTE. Nicolai declines the offer. Seidensticker believes that he was negatively influenced by his father. “The whole dispute ultimately led to a breach of trust.”
Later, Nicolai turns to his grandmother for help: “How should I make a living?” he asked “dear grandma” in a touching letter. “Omi, I’m just afraid. Because nobody wants to speak to me openly and honestly and nobody tells me anything or makes any binding promises. Especially when it’s Olli who is supposed to take care of my concerns in the future, my fear gets even greater and turns into anger and anger.”
Nicolai Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe: He was deceived
She doesn’t understand why he “suddenly and completely unjustifiedly made such demands,” replies Gisela Seidensticker, now 86, her grandson. He should get in touch so that everything else can be discussed. “Unfortunately, I also have to tell you that if you don’t get in touch, things will take their course without your participation and can no longer be stopped.”
Things take their course – but differently than the Seidensticker millionaires planned. Nicolai – now 18 years old – is now demanding his mother’s inheritance. The waiver of inheritance that his father made at the time does not apply. He was deceived because after the death of his mother, assets were concealed, including jewelry, golf course shares and two life insurance policies. The nanny knew about it, but received 10,000 marks in cash. In February 2019, Sabine-Brigitte Müller, tax consultant and mother of Nicolai’s best friend, assured in an affidavit that Anneliese S. had told her about this money and her obligation of confidentiality. Sabine-Brigitte Müller tells BUNTE that his family treats him like an “annoying insect”, Nicolai has complained again and again. “They don’t want me,” he believed.
York Prince zu Schaumburg-Lippe: “I was appalled that Nicolai had not even received his mother’s personal estate”
The family drama now forges an alliance between father and son. York zu Schaumburg-Lippe intervenes in the dispute. “I was appalled that Nicolai had not even received his mother’s personal estate. In addition, my research revealed that assets had been kept secret at the time, and above all the company shares had been set far too low,” says Schaumburg-Lippe BUNTE. Tax consultant Müller had estimated the value at that time at 6 million marks on the basis of documents.
That’s not true, replied Oliver Seidensticker when asked by BUNTE. “York zu Schaumburg-Lippe pushed my mother emotionally to the limit with his flood of lawsuits. He lost all proceedings.” In November 2020, the OLG Hamm (I-10 W 89/19) decided that there was no obligation to provide information about the financial situation at the time. The court also ruled out a mistake about the value of the estate. Years passed with lawyers’ ping-pong, hopes and failures. Then Nicolai zu Schaumburg-Lippe died and his father, suddenly his son’s sole heir, made a shocking discovery. “All his belongings were gone,” said Schaumburg-Lippe to BUNTE. His new, black VW Polo GTI along with the vehicle documents – gone. Mobile phone and computer – not found. The signet ring with the coat of arms of the nobility – was missing. The account – almost empty. Some items such as parts from his beloved collection of toy cars and pieces of furniture turned up for sale on eBay. Oliver Seidensticker also confirms that the house was plundered. “When I entered the house, it was almost swept clean.”
York Prince zu Schaumburg-Lippe: “It’s not about money, it’s about an emotional legacy”
Reports were filed in Schaumburg-Lippe, including against the former nanny. The public prosecutor’s office in Bielefeld began investigations, which they recently stopped (701 Js 480/20). It is “mainly a civil law dispute that only affects those directly involved,” according to the reasoning. The authority has “limited capacities” and the accused “has not made a criminal appearance” and the culpability is “low”. “I cannot accept that my son’s estate was ransacked and nothing remains of him.” The missing VW Polo turned up at some point in Hamburg, but the public prosecutor’s office did not get a result there either (Az. 3404 Js 101/20).
Since the death of his son, York zu Schaumburg-Lippe has repeatedly tried to get answers to his questions and doubts, which has always reignited the dispute between him and his former brother-in-law. “It’s all about the money for him,” suspects Oliver Seidensticker. “It’s not about money for me, it’s about an emotional legacy,” York says about Schaumburg-Lippe. “Most of all, I want justice for my son.” He owes him that.
By Katrin Sachsen
The story comes from BUNTE magazine, the full issue can be bought here.