BERLIN (Reuters) - German businessman Friedrich Merz, who is running to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel as leader of the Christian Democratic (CDU) party, disclosed for the first time that he earns about one million euros (£889,460) a year, Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday.
Merz, 62, chairs the German arm of the U.S. investment fund BlackRock, works for the U.S. law firm Mayer Brown and serves on the board of numerous companies.
Merz is running against CDU General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, and Health Minister Jens Spahn, 38.
Merz stood at 49 percent support in a poll of conservative supporters published Sunday, compared to 32 percent for Kramp-Karrenbauer and 7 percent for Spahn.
"I began with the income of a law clerk in Saarbruecken that was manageable for a family with two children. Today I earn about a million euros gross", Merz told the newspaper.
Merz provided no details about his income from various positions, but annual reports show he recently earned 125,000 euros at BlackRock alone, as well as 80,000 euros at Wepa Industrieholding, which makes toilet paper; 75,000 euros at Bank HSBC Trinkhaus, and 14,000 euros at the Cologne-Bonn Airport GmbH, the newspaper reported.
Criticised recently for saying he belonged to the upper middle class, Merz told the paper: "For me, 'middle class' is not a pure economic measure. From my parents I learned the values that shape the middle class, including hard work, discipline, decency, respect and the knowledge that one should give back to society as one can".
Merz said for him the word "upper class" conjured images of people who had inherited a great deal of money or a company that allowed them to enjoy their lives. "This is not the case for me".
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, editing by G Crosse)