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Richest Germans: The Baking Barons

DW staff (tkw)December 6, 2005

Together with his family, Rudolf August Oetker, of the Oetker baking empire, is one of the richest men in Germany. Collectively the family is worth $7.7 billion (6.56 billion euros).

Oetker has long been a household name in GermanyImage: dpa

Following the death of Rudolf August's father, Rudolf Oetker, in the Verdun killing fields in 1916, the family business was run by his mother Ida and her second husband, Richard Kaselowsky. After graduating from high school, the young Rudolf August opted to do an apprenticeship in banking, but that only lasted until 1936 when he was conscripted.

Götterspeise von Dr. Oetker mit Thumbnail
From baking powder to powdered jellyImage: AP

The Oetker family business was founded in 1891 when Rudolf August's pharmacist grandfather, August Oetker, started selling little packets of the then almost unheard of baking powder, under the name "Bakin." Each package came with a tried and tested recipe, and before long, Oetker senior was writing and selling bakery books and was such a success that he closed down his pharmacy in order to dedicate himself fully to his budding empire.

The empire continued to expand even after Oetker's death. Kaselowsky, who took over in 1918, chartered the growing business into new territory by developing baking ingredients like vanilla sugar or introducing powdered pudding mix onto the market.

From strength to strength

Then in 1944, following the death of his mother, step father and two half-sisters, it was Rudolf August who took over at the helm of the baking business. From then until 1981, he remained the company's only manager.

Frankfurter Börse
Bubbly gave Oetker another boostImage: dpa

During the economic miracle years of the 1950s, he built on the Oetker foundations, expanding the product range to create one of Germany's most diverse group of companies. Although he didn't always hang on to his shares for long, he invested in everything from film to construction and alcohol to financial services.

By the sixties, he had bought the Söhnlein Rheingold champagne company and the Gorbatschow vodka manufacturers, and was starting his foray into the world of beer. Thereafter, he added financial services to the strings on his bow before, in 1981, at the age of 65, transferring the management of his empire to his eldest son, August Oetker.

In the family

Rudolf und August Oetker bei Bilanzpressekonferenz
Rudolf August Oetker (left) with his son August in front of the family empire's founder, August OetkerImage: dpa

Rudolf August Oetker married his third wife, Marianne, in 1963. From his three marriages, he has a total of eight children, many of whom are involved in running the organization. In 1976, one of his sons, Richard Oetker was the victim of a spectacular kidnapping from which he was not released until a ransom of 10.5 million euros was paid.

Oetker is a renowned art collector, who has several homes around the world, and is known to enjoy riding and smoking his pipe.