Germany is a family business economy. The 1000 largest of them generated a total of 1.95 trillion euros in annual sales in 2019, as calculated by the “Die deutsche Wirtschaft” platform. The 5000 largest family businesses had a total turnover of 2.4 billion euros. To put it into perspective: Germany’s gross domestic product amounted to 3.4 trillion euros in 2019.
Largest family business
Every year, “Die deutsche Wirtschaft” compiles a ranking list of the family businesses with the highest turnover in Germany. Over three million companies are therefore owned by entrepreneurial families. According to the analysis, 260 of them achieved a turnover of at least 1 billion euros in 2019. At least 258 million euros were required to enter the Top 1000. The top 1000 family businesses create 7.8 million jobs worldwide, according to the report. 63 percent of the companies are in industry, almost 20 percent each in trade and services.
That was the picture before the Corona crisis. How massively family businesses will be hit by the consequences of the pandemic will be shown in the next balance sheet figures. At the moment, however, the following still applies: These are the largest family businesses in Germany.
@imago images / CHROMORANGE
# 10 Heraeus
The largest family businesses in Germany are well-known brands, and many Germans are familiar with their names. The representative in tenth place is an exception. The technology group Heraeus from Hanau opened this ranking with a turnover of 22.4 billion euros in the 2019 financial year. Heraeus relegated well-known names such as Henkel, Bertelsmann and Merck to their places. “The company’s roots go back to a family-run pharmacy since 1660,” says the Heraeus website. The group is active in the environment, electronics, health and industrial applications. According to its own information, it employs 14,900 people in 40 countries.
# 9 Merckle Group
“The German Economy” leads the Merckle Group to ninth place with annual sales of EUR 26.1 billion. The business areas of the Ulm-based company include pharmaceuticals, mechanical engineering, vehicles and building materials. One of the most important investments of the group founded by Adolf Merckle is the pharmaceutical wholesaler Phoenix Group.
@imago images / Günther Ortmann
# 8 Fresenius
In a comparison of annual sales in 2019, the Fresenius Group ranked eighth among German family businesses. According to the ranking, the health group based in Bad Homburg generated sales of 35.4 billion euros. The largest shareholder of the is the Else Kröner-Fresenius-Foundation. Else Kröner, the longstanding head of the company who died in 1988, has transferred all of her assets to the foundation.
@imago images / Sven Simon
# 7 metro
The largest corporation in the world is a trading company: Walmart. The industry also has strong sales in Germany and is represented by four companies in the top 10. Metro AG starts in seventh place. According to the information, the Düsseldorf-based wholesale company achieved annual sales of 36.5 billion euros in 2019. For a long time the group was controlled by the Haniel, Schmidt-Ruthenbeck and Beisheim families. A Czech investor is now the largest single shareholder.
# 6 Continental
Auto supplier Continental was able to slightly increase sales in 2019 despite the general crisis in the industry. It increased from 44.4 to 44.5 billion euros. That meant sixth place in the ranking of the largest family businesses. However, the adjusted operating profit of the Hanover group fell from 4.1 to 3.2 billion euros. The largest shareholder is the Schaeffler Holding owned by Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler and her son Georg.
@imago images / Sven Simon
# 5 Robert Bosch
Robert Bosch GmbH came in fifth with sales of 77.9 billion euros. The international technology and service company was founded in 1886 by its namesake as a “workshop for precision mechanics and electrical engineering”. Today the Robert Bosch Stiftung holds 92 percent of the company’s shares.
@imago images / Volker Preusser
# 4 Aldi
Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd are combined in the statistics of “Die Deutsche Wirtschaft” to form a family company. The turnover of 87.7 billion euros means fourth place. The two companies are owned by family foundations that were founded by the two company founders, Karl and Theo Albrecht. The descendants of the two brothers are among the richest billionaires in Germany.
@imago images / robertharding
# 3 BMW
The BMW Group was able to report annual sales of more than 100 billion euros for the first time in 2019. According to the group, sales rose from 96.9 to 104.2 billion. However, the annual surplus fell from 7.1 to 5.0 billion euros. The listed car company is controlled by the descendants of the Quandt industrial family: the siblings Susanne Klatten and Stefan Quandt.
@imago images / Steinach
# 2 Black group
Thanks to Lidl and Kaufland, the Schwarz Group is the largest retail company in Europe. According to the ranking, the Neckarsulm group achieved a turnover of 113.3 billion euros in 2019, putting its competitor Aldi in the shade. The group is controlled by Dieter Schwarz, one of the richest Germans, but who does not appear in public.
@imago images / imagebroker
Volkswagen AG remains by far the largest family company in Germany and has expanded its lead. In 2019, sales rose by 7.1 percent to 252.6 billion euros. Operating profit before special items increased from EUR 17.1 billion to EUR 19.3 billion. “2019 was a very successful year for the Volkswagen Group,” said CEO Herbert Diess. The corona crisis caused sales to drop sharply. In the third quarter of 2020, however, Volkswagen reported a noticeable recovery.