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Knorr-Bremse mourns the death of the man who built the business

The entrepreneur Heinz Hermann Thiele, majority shareholder and longstanding CEO and Supervisory Board Chairman of Knorr-Bremse AG, died yesterday (February 23, 2021) at the age of 79 with his family in Munich.

Heinz Hermann Thiele was one of the leading entrepreneurs in Germany. With his entrepreneurial vision, he built the Knorr-Bremse Group from a medium-sized company in a difficult economic situation into a profitable, globally successful group with almost 30,000 employees and annual sales of around EUR 7 billion.

The company says that to this day, more than a billion people around the world trust in the pioneering technologies for more safety on rail and road transport.

He always combined his entrepreneurial and personal success with social responsibility. As a sponsor, Thiele founded the non-profit association Knorr-Bremse Global Care e. V., but also supported numerous other social and scientific projects around the world. He was honoured in Germany and internationally several times for his work.

As a far-sighted entrepreneur, Heinz Hermann Thiele put the management of the company in the hands of external managers almost 15 years ago. Another step towards ensuring future viability was the IPO in 2018, when it opened the company to the capital market and other investors.

Today the development of the company is in the hands of a very experienced management team, which will continue the successful growth course of Knorr-Bremse AG together with the supervisory board and all employees in the spirit of Heinz Hermann Thiele.

The thoroughbred entrepreneur Thiele described discipline, fairness, willingness to perform and a sense of responsibility as his most important principles. On this basis and with a high level of personal commitment, he developed the medium-sized Munich supplier company into a technology group and world market leader.

The pioneer Thiele relied on an internationalisation strategy early on. As early as the 1970s he made strategically important contacts to North America and Japan, but also to the then still emerging markets of India, South America, Russia and especially China, in which the company is still strongly positioned today. He gradually built up the Group’s global production and sales network with extensive regional added value and personal customer proximity.

After managing the company as CEO for more than two decades, Mr. Thiele gave up operational management and moved to the Supervisory Board as chairman in 2007. In this committee he always contributed his knowledge for the benefit of the company. At the same time, he devoted himself increasingly to his various other entrepreneurial and personal interests.

Heinz Hermann Thiele was born in Mainz on April 2, 1941. After fleeing East Germany due to the war, he grew up in Vlotho (Weser) and Minden (Westphalia), where he graduated from high school in 1961. His father, who returned from captivity in 1945, resumed his work as a lawyer and notary in 1951, but died in 1963 at the age of 61.

Heinz Hermann Thiele grew up in modest circumstances after the loss of the family property in destroyed Berlin. Nevertheless, Thiele was able to take up law studies at the University of Munich in the winter semester of 1962/1963. “In retrospect, I used the extremely limited financial circumstances and the very lack of a father figure to create something on my own,” Thiele said later.

In 1969 he started his professional career at Knorr-Bremse as a legal clerk in the patent department. From 1975 Thiele was entrusted with the development and expansion of the commercial vehicle division, and in 1979 he was appointed to the company’s board of management, to which he had been a member for 28 years.

In 1987 he became chairman of the board of directors of the group of companies, whose shares he gradually acquired from 1985. From 2007 to 2016, Thiele was Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Knorr-Bremse AG, and from July 2020, Deputy Chairman. Heinz Hermann Thiele was appointed honorary chairman of the supervisory board back in 2016.

Heinz Hermann Thiele dedicated his entire life to the service of Knorr-Bremse and a wide range of other entrepreneurial activities. He leaves behind a unique and extraordinary life’s work. May he Rest in Peace.