Representing the fifth generation of the founding Bertelsmann family, Reinhard Mohn spent over 40 years of active professional engagement building a business that now ranks with the top media groups worldwide. Coupling daring entrepreneurial risk with long-term vision and financial expertise, his life's work employs more than 100,000 people today.
He founded the Bertelsmann Stiftung in 1977 as a continuation of the longstanding political, cultural and social commitment of the Bertelsmann and Mohn families. To this end, Mohn signed over 68.8 percent of his capital shares in Bertelsmann AG to the Bertelsmann Stiftung on Sept. 16, 1993. The foundation currently holds 77.4 percent of the shares (as of December 2009).
However, the transfer of capital shares did not include voting rights. Mohn's individual voting rights, roughly 90 percent of the stock capital, were transferred to the newly founded Bertelsmann Management Company on July 1, 1999. The fact that this charitable foundation is now the largest shareholder in Bertelsmann AG is based on Mohn's belief that great wealth must be subordinate to the social obligations of ownership, as put forth in Germany's Basic Law.
Reinhard Mohn was born on June 29, 1921, in Gütersloh, finished his secondary schooling in 1939, and went into the military. As a lieutenant in the Africa Corps, Mohn was captured by American forces in 1943, and returned home in 1946. His desire to become an engineer went against his father's wishes that he enter the family printing and publishing business. Mohn took on the new task and assumed management of the business shortly thereafter, beginning one of the most noteworthy and outstanding entrepreneurial careers in post-war Germany.
Over the course of 40 years of professional engagement, Mohn transformed the midsized, regionally focused Bertelsmann Printing and Publishing House into a leading international media group. Bertelsmann is largely his creation, with over 100,000 employees in 54 countries and revenue of €16.1 billion. With self-discipline, tenacious independence and creative drive, Mohn has accomplished much in the fields of business, management and social change. He was guided by family traditions and values passed down over 150 years, aimed at promoting the common good. He said that "ethical criteria have always held their own with financial goals. I believe that this explains Bertelsmann's remarkable financial stability."
Even as a young executive, Mohn worked vigorously to establish and maintain an "inner order" within his company. He wanted to ensure that the internal structure of his business was based upon principles of fairness, partnership and justice. He was not driven by the idea of a social utopia, but by the belief that a motivated employee -- one who has the framework and freedom to grow in his or her job -- will be happier and more productive. "The most important thing for a company's growth and continuity," Mohn said, "is that the greatest possible number of people feel accountable and participate in the decision-making process."
Guided by this belief, Mohn constructed his company on three pillars as a way of ensuing efficiency while acting humanely: individual autonomy, material justice and social security. In 1981, the engaged entrepreneur followed his own management guidelines and gave up his position as chairman of the Bertelsmann AG Executive Board, assuming the position of chairman of the Supervisory Board. On June 29, 1991 -- his 70th birthday -- he stepped down from this body as well, to devote his full attention to the work of the Bertelsmann Stiftung as chairman of its Executive Board. He turned over this office to Dr. Gunter Thielen on October 1, 2001, and, once Dr. Thielen became CEO of Bertelsmann AG in 2002, the post was filled by Prof. Heribert Meffert. For his part, Mohn remained a member of the board until Dec. 31, 2004. In 2005, he reorganized the foundation's governance structures, with its Board of Trustees being given supervisory and monitoring responsibilities. In January 2008, Dr. Thielen once again became head of the Executive Board, and Mohn continued as a member of the Board of Trustees.
In October 1994, Mohn was awarded the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, and he was named an honorary member of the Club of Rome in April 1996. He received the Order of Merit with Star of the Federal Republic of Germany and Spain's Prince of Asturias Award in 1998. The same year, he was named "Entrepreneur of the Century." In 1999, he was recognized with the State Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Hanns Martin Schleyer Award and the Spanish Grand Cross. In 2000 he was given the Bernhard Harms Medal by the Institute for Economics and the Jakob Fugger Medal by the Association of Bavarian Newspaper Publishers. He received an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Münster in 2001 and the Future Prize of the Christian Democratic Party's Social Affairs Committee. In 2003 he and his wife Liz Mohn were recognized with the Teddy Kollek Prize. In 2005, the city of Alcúdia made him an honorary citizen. In 2007, he was awarded the German Founder's Prize in the category of "Life's Work."
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CYOC is the abbreviation for "Create Your Own Career"
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