Dr. Reinhart Freudenberg, former Speaker of the Management Board, General Partner and Chairman of the Board of Partners of Freudenberg & Co. Kommanditgesellschaft, died on June 3, 2017, at the age of 84. During his years with the company between 1961 and 2005, he made a considerable contribution to shaping the destiny of the family-owned company. From 1972 until 1997 he was a Member of the Management Board and its Speaker from 1988. Between 1997 and 2005 Reinhart Freudenberg served as the Chairman of the Board of Partners until 2005.
In 1961, following his legal studies and doctorate, his academic work at the Max-Planck-Institut in Heidelberg and practical experience as a lawyer, Reinhart Freudenberg joined Freudenberg, the family-owned company founded by his great-grandfather Carl Johann Freudenberg. After a year's introduction to the leather business, he first ran a tannery in Mexico from 1962 until 1969. Upon his return to Germany, he took over the responsibility for the nonwovens business. In 1972, he was appointed a Member of the Management Board and General Partner.
In 1988, following his brother Hermann's footsteps, Reinhart Freudenberg became Speaker of the Management Board. Under his leadership, the company was restructured as a Group with a decentralized corporate structure.
Reinhart Freudenberg retired from the Management Board, joined the Board of Partners and was elected its Chairman in 1997. He held this office until his final retirement in 2005.
Reinhart Freudenberg is the last member of the family to date who held overall responsibility for the company as Speaker of the Management Board.
Dr. Mohsen Sohi, CEO of Freudenberg SE and the Freudenberg & Co. KG. Management Board said, "With his strategic vision, Reinhart Freudenberg remodeled the company into a customer and market-oriented Group, laying the foundations for the company's current success."
In the mid-1990s, the company was transformed under Reinhart Freudenberg's leadership into a decentralized group of autonomous companies. Being more closely aligned with the markets and having clear entrepreneurial responsibility made it possible for the Business Groups to react more quickly and flexibly to changes and to compete successfully worldwide. The development of business in North America and Asia was largely attributable to Reinhart Freudenberg's diplomatic skill.
Today, the Group's governance rules can be traced back to his initiatives, including a governance framework with external Management Board members. Consequently, he handed over his role as Speaker of the Management Board for the first time to a non-family member.
Social engagement was of considerable importance to Reinhart Freudenberg. He supported a range of diverse activities and in 1990 established the "Unterstützungskasse", an assistance fund for employees in need.
From 1984 until recently, he made a significant contribution to shaping the Freudenberg Foundation.
Reinhart Freudenberg was highly committed to his many honorary appointments, including the advisory board for the Institut für Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (IWG), a private social-scientific research institute in Bonn, as member of the board of the Landesverband der Baden-Württembergischen Industrie, Stuttgart, and as member of the Board of Trustees of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Euler Foundation and of the international Martin-Buber Foundation. In addition, he was Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Mannheimer AG Holding and Deputy Chairman of the governing board of Wilhelm Werhahn, as well as a Trustee of the Bernard van leer Foundation, The Hague and The van Leer Jerusalem Institute.
With Reinhart Freudenberg's passing, the company and the family lose an influential entrepreneur with extraordinary analytical abilities, who was able to quickly get to the heart of the issues at the same time as bringing people along with him. The company and the family are deeply indebted to Reinhart Freudenberg. His modesty and unwavering commitment to values serve as a role model to both the company as well as the Freudenberg family.