Helmut Claas, long-time managing director, chair of the supervisory board and chair of the shareholders’ committee of the Claas group, passed away last week at the age of 94.
The death of the well-known and influential character will bring sadness to his family and over 11,000 employees worldwide.
Helmut Claas was born in 1926 in Harsewinkel, Germany.
His parents managed a small agricultural machinery firm with a workforce of around 100. He completed an apprenticeship as a machine fitter after graduating from school. Practical experience followed in metalworking firms after he studied agriculture in Paris.
He then took over the planning and establishment of a Claas distributor in France, which now operates as Claas France SAS. He joined his parents’ family firm in Harsewinkel in 1958 in an engineering role, before being made managing director in 1962.
His special focus was on developing pioneering products and mass-producing them economically, most notably the Lexion combine, the Jaguar forager and the Xerion tractor.
In 2003, he succeeded in taking an important step towards the company’s future with Claas taking over the tractor business from Renault Agriculture in France. Meanwhile, the international growth continued with the establishment and expansion of production sites in Russia, the US and China.
Over the years, he picked up many honorary accolades alongside doctorate and knight titles. He was described as being first and foremost a farmer. He ran a farm in East Anglia in the UK and enjoyed keeping in touch with farmers, taking a keen interest in issues concerning agriculture.
Today, his daughter, Cathrina Claas-Mühlhäuser, manages the decision-making and development of the successful group of companies.