German firms with the longest corporate history
More than 90% of all companies in Germany are family-owned. They account for half of all revenues logged by the domestic economy, with some of the companies founded as early as the 16th century.
Coatinc Company Holding Ltd.
It only became known this spring that The Coatinc Company is Germany's oldest family-owned firm. After checking relevant documents, historians confirmed the company was founded in 1502, starting out as blacksmiths in the town of Siegen. Now a modern galvanizing plant, the firm is still headquartered in the town.
William Prym Holding Ltd.
The second-oldest family-owned firm in Germany is Prym, founded in 1530. Originally focused on the production of rolled plate and wires, the firm switched to sewing kits and snap fasteners in 1903. Prym has a workforce of 3,300 globally, logging €382 million ($430 million) in revenues last year.
Wiegand-Glas has its roots in a modest glassmaking facility in the Rhön region. Although glass products have featured prominently since the company was founded in 1570, management decided in 1997 to also produce PET (plastic) bottles. Today, Wiegand-Glas employs 1,800 people. With an annual revenue of €486 million, its in the top three of Germany's container glass producers.
German banking firms have been around since the 16th century, including the Berenberg Bank which was founded in Hamburg in 1590. It is thus the world's second-oldest lender behind Italy's Monte dei Paschi di Siena. Berenberg's 1,640 employees — active in asset management, investment and corporate banking — boasted revenues of €4.7 billion in 2018.
Friedrich Schwarze GmbH & Co.
The Schwarze company gets a first official mention as a corn distillery in 1664. It developed a wide range of liquors over the centuries, establishing firm roots in the domestic liquor market. Schwarze and Schlichte, as the enterprise is now known, employs 100 people and posted a turnover of €47 million last year.
Founded as a pharmacy store in 1668, Merck is the world's oldest pharmaceutical-chemical firm — not to be confused with the US company of the same name that up until 1917 was part of the German firm. Although the US firm is a lot larger now, Germany's Merck KGaA boasted revenues of almost €15 billion in 2018 and a workforce of 51,700 worldwide.
Lukas Meindl Ltd.
Shoemaker Meindl started back in 1683 when Petrus Meindl opened one of the first shoemaking stores in Kirchanschöring (German state of Bavaria). Generations of descendants have since kept the business going. Luka Meindl Ltd.has 200 employees, focusing on the production of tramping boots and leather fashion.
Harry Brot Ltd.
A simple 1688 bakery near Hamburg was the origin of the huge Harry bakery chain. Its products are predominantly bought by people in eastern, western and northern Germany. The company has been investing heavily in modernization projects. Harry Brot has nine production facilities in Germany. It has a workforce of 4,375 and logged revenues of €1 billion last year.
Villeroy & Boch AG
The ceramics firm was founded in a Lorrainese village in 1748 by iron founder Francois Boch. In the beginning, the company exclusively produced china, but gradually expanded production to include items for bathing rooms, wellness centers and table settings. Villeroy & Boch employs 7,500 people globally and has a turnover of €835 million (2018 figure).
S. Siedle & Söhne OHG
The family-owned Siedle business, which is known nowadays for its modern communications technology, was a foundry when it came into being in 1750. In 1887, it turned to telephony services to focus on modern commmunications systems in homes in the early 20th century. Last year, its 550 employees secured revenues of €88 million.