Klaus J. Jacobs (1936-2008)

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The Successful Entrepreneur

Klaus J. Jacobs was born in Bremen on December 3, 1936. After finishing his vocational training in Hamburg he went to Central America as a coffee trader. He returned to Europe in 1961 and took over the management of the Austrian subsidiary of his family’s coffee company.

Klaus J. Jacobs earned an Executive Master’s degree in Stanford and in 1970 took over the management of Johann Jacobs & Co. In 1973 he transferred the company headquarters to Zurich. He gradually expanded the company, above all through the acquisition of the Suchard and Tobler brands in 1982. He sold his majority share in Jacobs Suchard to the US group Philip Morris in 1990. In 1991, he started a new entrepreneurial project that resulted in the founding of the global companies Adecco (HR solutions provider) and Barry Callebaut (Manufacturing of cocoa and chocolate products). Today, both companies are world market leaders in their respective sectors.

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„It would be nice if they said of me: He was an entrepreneur, not a bore.“

The Socially Committed Founder

Besides his entrepreneurial activities, the life of Klaus J. Jacobs was shaped by a second area of concern, namely his social involvement, his dedication to young people and his love of nature. In his early years, when he was a deacon in the Church of St. Ansgarii in Bremen, he founded a kindergarten for children with spastic paralysis. For over twenty years, he was a member of the Board of the World Boy Scout Foundation, of which he was the Chairman from 1996 to 1998. And he was a founding member and president of the association “The Friends of the Hohe Tauern National Park” in Austria. In the year 2000, Klaus J. Jacobs realized a private dream of his: this passionate horse-lover and gifted dressage rider – who for over a decade was a member of the Swiss national dressage team – bought Newsells Park Stud near London. There he bred racehorses, following a family tradition.

In 1989, Klaus J. Jacobs and his family established the Jacobs Foundation in Zurich: a private foundation with an international orientation. Its goal is to offer positive, sustainable support to future generations by improving their development opportunities, thus enabling them to become socially responsible members of society. In 2001, Klaus J. Jacobs transferred his interests in Jacobs Holding AG to the Jacobs Foundation by means of a donation.

In 2005, Klaus J. Jacobs was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Basel. In 2008, he was admitted to the Honorary Senate of the Foundation Lindau Nobelprizewinners Meetings in recognition of his commitment to the field of education. In the same year, he was awarded the Leibniz Medal by the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities for his special services in the promotion of science and research, and he received the highest honor that his home city of Bremen has to give, namely its Gold Medal of Honor, for his outstanding social commitment in the field of youth development and for his exemplary philanthropy to the benefit of science.

Klaus J. Jacobs died on September 11, 2008 in Küsnacht in Switzerland.

In honor of its founder, the Jacobs Foundation has since 2009 given two annual prizes endowed with 1.2 million Swiss francs for exceptional achievements in research and practice in the field of child and youth development.

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„I always felt driven to ensure that children have a good future ahead of them.“