Klaus J. Jacobs was born on December 3, 1936, into the well-known coffee dynasty in Bremen. After completing secondary school and vocational training, he went to Central America as a coffee trader. Returning to Europe in 1961, he assumed the leadership of the Austrian subsidiary of his family’s coffee company. In 1970, after earning an executive master’s degree at Stanford University, Jacobs took over the management of Johann Jacobs & Co., moving the company’s headquarters to Zurich in 1973. He acquired the Suchard and Tobler brands in 1982. Eight years later, he sold his majority share in Jacobs Suchard to the U.S. company Philip Morris.
The year 1991 marked a new beginning: Klaus J. Jacobs founded the global companies Adecco (an HR solutions provider) and Barry Callebaut (a manufacturer of cocoa and chocolate products). The two companies are now leaders in their respective global markets.
„It would be nice if they said of me: He was an entrepreneur, not a bore.“
A lover of nature, Klaus J. Jacobs was socially engaged throughout his life, with a particular focus on helping young people. While a deacon at Bremen’s St. Ansgarii Church as a young man, he founded a preschool for children suffering from spastic paralysis. For over twenty years, he was a member of the board of the World Boy Scout Foundation, serving as its chairman from 1996 to 1998. He was a founding member and president of the Friends of Hohe Tauern National Park association in Austria.
In 1989, Klaus J. Jacobs and his family established a private foundation with an international orientation: the Jacobs Foundation, headquartered in Zurich. Its goal was to offer positive, sustainable support for the young people of future generations by providing opportunities for positive development and thus enabling them to become socially responsible members of society. In 2001, Jacobs transferred his interests in Jacobs Holding AG to the Jacobs Foundation by means of a donation.
In 2000, Klaus J. Jacobs, a passionate horse-lover and accomplished dressage rider who was a member of Switzerland’s national dressage team for over a decade, realized a personal dream: He purchased Newsells Park Stud, located near London. There he bred racehorses, following a family tradition.
„I always felt driven to ensure that children have a good future ahead of them.”
Klaus J. Jacobs received numerous honorary degrees in recognition of his exceptional efforts to promote education and youth development:
In 2005, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Basel. In 2008, he was admitted to the Honorary Senate of the Foundation Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings in recognition of his commitment to education. That same year, he was awarded the Leibniz Medal by the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities for his contributions to promote science and research, and he also received the highest honor his home city of Bremen confers: its Gold Medal of Honor, recognizing his commitment to youth development and his exemplary philanthropic contributions to the cause of scientific progress. Klaus J. Jacobs passed away in September 2008.