175 Years of Bertelsmann

In 2010, Bertelsmann celebrated its 175th anniversary under the motto “175 Years of Bertelsmann – The Legacy for Our Future.” This motto expresses the entrepreneurial spirit and creative power that have always been key characteristics of Bertelsmann, as well as the sustainability of the company's core businesses.

Short company chronicle

Printer Carl Bertelsmann founded C. Bertelsmann Verlag in Gütersloh, Westphalia on July 1, 1835 to better utilize the capacity of his own book-printing business. Bertelsmann’s first “bestseller” was a compilation of Christian songs, which served to support a religious revival movement - as did its entire publishing program. Under the founder’s successors the publishing company remained faithful to its religious focus, even as it began to grow significantly. Heinrich Mohn, whose father had married into the Bertelsmann family, was the one who began expanding the publishing program into fiction in the late 1920s. The department soon grew enormously. In the Nazi era Bertelsmann began to publish books about wartime experiences. The company became the army’s main supplier of books. In 1944, the publishing company was closed as the result of a court case over the illegal procurement of paper stock, as well as due to of the mobilization of the entire German private sector. In March 1945, much of the publisher's premises in Gütersloh were destroyed in a bombing raid.

In 1947 Heinrich Mohn handed over the management of the company to his son, Reinhard, who had returned from an American prisoner of war camp the previous year. The name of Reinhard Mohn is synonymous with the rapid rise of the publisher and its development into an international media and services company. Milestones in this history include the foundation of the “Lesering” (Reading Circle), a forerunner of the book clubs, and during the fifties, the establishment of the music business with the “Schallplattenring” (Record Circle) and its own record label Ariola. In the sixties, the first step abroad was taken with the foundation of a book club in Spain, followed in the seventies and eighties by entry into the television and magazine industries. Bertelsmann expanded to the U.S. in the early 1980s and in subsequent decades not only grew to become the largest trade-book publisher in the world, but also Europe’s largest broadcaster and a major player in the digital world.

The entertainment network RTL Group currently unites 45 TV channels, 31 radio stations and noted production companies in one home. The group’s brands and programming are very popular among viewers and have a presence on all digital platforms. The Random House publishing group comprises more than 120 editorially independent individual imprints whose titles regularly dominate the international bestseller and literary honors lists. Random House is also a leader in the biggest book markets with its e-books. The Gruner + Jahr printing and publishing company, with its more than 500 magazines and digital sites, is Europe’s largest magazine publisher, and Bertelsmann’s arvato division is among the world’s largest internationally networked media and communications services providers. Direct Group Bertelsmann maintains leading positions in direct marketing with its media clubs, booksellers, online activities, and publishing and distribution companies.

How it all began
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