Schaeffler Group (Schaeffler Gruppe) is one of the world’s largest producers of roller bearings and machine components. Although in the Forbes list it is said he made his billions through ball bearings, but we won’t get into semantics here.
In 1946 brothers Wilhelm and Georg Schaeffler founded the company and by 1949 Georg had developed the needle roller cage, making the needle roller bearing a reliable component for industrial applications.
Over the years Schaeffler grew and expanded, taking over LuK GmbH in 1999 and FAG Kugelfischer in 2002 and form Schaeffler Group. Then in 2008 the company had its eyes on another, big acquisition; Continental AG. It cost them $15 billion and was a debt-financed takeover of the tyre and auto parts company.
It looked like this acquitistion would be too much for Schaffler Group when the international financial crisis hit. Continental’s sales and price plummeted, forcing the Schaeffler’s into debt restructuring negotiations with creditors. After a Continental rights offering to raise capital and some debt refinancing, the Schaeffler’s owned 49.9% of Continental. Since then the market has oince again grown and they’ve continued to pay down the debt with share sales and excess cash flow. Since Continental shares plummeted in 2009, their price has risen 18-fold.
Now Maria and Georg, through Schaeffler Group, own 46% of Continental, a stake worth nearly $17 billion.
Since joining the company in 2009, Georg has become head of the supervisory board of Schaeffler Group and a member of the supervisory board of Continental AG. Only last year he was ranked as number 71 in the Forbes list; he is now the richest German and Schaeffler Group have revenues of $15.4 billion in 2013. It employs 80,000 people in 170 locations in 49 countries.