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Helmut Claas celebrates 90th birthday

Helmut Claas, for many years the managing partner of the CLAAS Group and chair of the Shareholders’ Committee, celebrated his 90th birthday on 16 July.


Helmut Claas

Helmut Claas, for many years the managing partner of the CLAAS Group and chair of the Shareholders’ Committee, celebrated his 90th birthday on 16 July. He built the company, founded by his father and uncles, into one of the world’s leading agricultural machinery enterprises.

“Helmut Claas has been a decisive source of both ideas and action for decades. With great expertise and persistence, he led the CLAAS family firm through good times and bad, repeatedly providing important stimuli for technological progress in agricultural engineering”, says Lothar Kriszun, spokesperson for the CLAAS Group Executive Board.

Helmut Claas was born in 1926 in Harsewinkel, Germany, the eldest of three children. Between 1948 and 1954 he completed a degree in mechanical engineering at the Technical University of Hanover. This included a semester at the Technical University of Vienna and a year of agricultural studies in Paris. This was followed by further studies in the field at the University of Vienna and the Grande École Nationale d’Agriculture in Paris.

After finishing his studies he took responsibility for the planning and establishment of a CLAAS distributorship in France, now trading as CLAAS France.

In 1958 Helmut Claas entered his parents’ family firm in Harsewinkel, Germany. In 1962 he was appointed director of the engineering department. When the company was re-established as a general partnership under German law (OHG) in 1978, he became a personally liable partner. In 1996, as part of the restructuring of the firm into a joint-stock company, he moved from the role of managing partner to be chair of both the Supervisory Board and the Shareholders’ Committee.

His special focus has always been on developing pioneering products and mass producing them economically. A whole series of innovations were initiated or co-created by Helmut Claas. For example, in 1970 the DOMINATOR series was developed, based on a modular or platform construction concept. The DOMINATOR became one of the most successful combine harvester models in the world.

Its successor model, the LEXION, was also developed in Helmut Claas’s era. This is still considered the most advanced and capable combine harvester worldwide. The development of the JAGUAR self-propelled forage harvester, was also a success story, one that enabled CLAAS to dominate global markets.

In 2003 he succeeded in taking an important step towards developing and securing the company’s future success through the takeover by CLAAS of the whole tractor division of Renault Agriculture. Since then the company has been in a position to supply the global agriculture sector with the complete range of important farming machines.

Many internationally prestigious universities in Hungary, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria and Germany have awarded honorary doctorates to Helmut Claas. For example, in 2000 he received the honorary title “Doctor of Agricultural Studies” in “recognition of his outstanding achievements in the field of agricultural engineering and his particular services in the development of high-performance, modern agricultural machines” from the University of Stuttgart-Hohenheim. It was also the University of Stuttgart-Hohenheim that, in 2004, appointed him to its honorary senate for his lifetime achievement in the field of pioneering agricultural technology. In June 2009, the then Goryachkin University of Moscow, now the Timiryazev Agricultural Academy, appointed him an honorary professor. Also in 2009, the Republic of France appointed Helmut Claas “Chevalier dans l’Ordre de la Legion d’honneur”, honouring his services as a pioneer of Franco-German cooperation.Personal awards, such as honorary citizenship of his home town of Harsewinkel, Germany, the Medal for Merit of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, as well as the Order of Merit of the French Agriculture Minister, round off his life’s work.

The long-term further development of the CLAAS family firm has rested on firm foundations for many years. Today his daughter Cathrina Claas-Mühlhäuser leads the corporate group as chair of the Supervisory Board.

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