Top 500 German Family Businesses - the economy most dependent on family enterprises | Family Capital (2023)

Germany’s top 500 family businesses contribute nearly 43% of the country’s GDP, which underlines just how vital family enterprises are to the fourth biggest economy in the world.

Most of the 500 will continue to thrive in the 21st-century digital dominated economy. But issues such as gender diversity at many of these businesses have been neglected at a time when women in senior management are considered critical to a company’s prospects.

These are some of the main findings of research by Family Capital in association with PwC on the size and characteristics of the family enterprise sector for Germany. Below is a table of the top 500, which looks at their revenues, family involvement, women in senior management positions, employment numbers, as well as other data points.

Last year, the top 500 generated $1.8 trillion in revenues, against Germany’s total GDP of $4.2 trillion in the same year. This figure accounts for 42.8% of the country’s GDP, which is by far a bigger proportion of family business involvement among the top five economies (the US, China, Japan, Germany, and the UK) in the world.

“The research shows the huge importance of family businesses for the German economy,” says Peter Englisch, global family business leader for PwC. “Most are embracing the challenge of the digital economy through efforts like their corporate venturing partnerships and investments, which will help them thrive in the future. It is clear they will continue to play an essential role in Germany, and fuel not only that economy’s growth, but the world’s as well.”

The top 500 employed 6,412,413 people globally last year. Although this figure is substantial and indicates just how important these businesses are to job creation, the top 500’s contribution to employment is considerably less as a percentage of total employment in Germany than their contribution to total GDP.

With as many as one million of the 6.4 million people employed by the top 500 family businesses employed outside of Germany, their contribution to employment in their domestic market is closer to 5.4 million. Total German employment was 41.7 million in 2018, suggesting the top 500 contributed to around 13% of jobs in their domestic market last year.

What these employment numbers hint at is that the bigger family businesses are requiring less labour to produce more output – a trend happening across the world at the big corporate level. Nevertheless, the top 500 family businesses in Germany are still extremely important to job creation in their domestic market and will continue to be so.

Family Capital also looked at women representation in senior management, i.e. C-suite positions at all 500 companies. Our research found 394 (78.8%) of these businesses had no women representation at the C-suite level. Some of the more well-known companies on the list with no senior women in top jobs included the Robert Bosch Group, the Schwarz Group, which owns the supermarket chain Lidl, and the pharmaceutical group Boehringer Ingelheim.

We did not look at gender equality at the board level for these businesses, but the lack of women in senior management at family businesses in Germany is something the sector will need to work on in the years ahead.

Family Capital also looked at family generational involvement in the top 500 and found third generation involvement – where this generation was the latest to be involved in the business, although not necessarily the only generation – comprised the biggest number on the list, at 142. This was followed by the second generation (123) and the fourth (101).

The two oldest family businesses in terms of the number of generations of the same family who have been involved in the business, 13 each, are the pharmaceutical group Merck (founded in 1668) and the bank Berenberg (founded in 1590). The oldest business on the list is Boschgotthardshuette O. Breyer (founded in 1466), although under is current family owners, the latest generation involvement is the third.

Family Capital also looked at whether the family owners of the 500 had involvement at the board level (both executive and supervisory level) at these companies. The research found 67% (337) had family representation at board level, but a third did not.

Overall, the family enterprise sector is in excellent shape in Germany and is an exemplar of best practices for others to follow around the world. Nonetheless, issues like improving gender equality need addressing.

Trends like the diminishing role in job creation of the top 500 when their output is rising are good for profits, but might have negative societal consequences in the years ahead. The development of AI and robotics is likely to further hit their job-creating abilities.

How the top family businesses deal with these issues, particularly as many of them are big advocates of stakeholder values, will be of critical importance for the sector in the years ahead.

Methodology and Table heading explanations are at the bottom of the table

To access the Table in full, please click on its content and scroll right or left with your mouse. Or scroll down to the end of the Table and use the right/left scroll bar there.

Germany's Top 500 Family Businesses

wdt_ID Rank Company Revenues 2018 $m Employees Family ownership Founded Public/Private Generation Family executive Woman in leadership Sector Headquarters State (abbreviation) Website
1 1 Volkswagen Group 266,315.1 665,260 Porsche, Piech 1937 Public 4 No Yes Automotive Wolfsburg NI
2 2 Schwarz Group (aka Lidl, Kaufland, ...) 119,418.4 429,000 Schwarz 1930 Private 2 No No Retail Neckarsulm BW
3 3 BMW Group 109,018.3 134,682 Quandt, Klatten 1916 Public 4 No Yes Automotive München BY
4 4 ALDI Discounter (Nord + Süd) 100,423.6 208,000 Albrecht 1913 Private 4 No Yes Retail Essen and Mülheim an der Ruhr NW
5 5 Robert Bosch Group 87,935.7 409,881 Bosch 1886 Private 3 No No Automotive Gerlingen-Schillerhöhe BW
6 6 Continental AG 49,802.1 245,686 Schaeffler 1871 Public 1 No Yes Automotive Hannover NI
7 7 Metro Group 41,790.7 150,000 Haniel, Schmidt-Ruthenbeck, Beisheim 1963 Public 3 No No Retail Düsseldorf NW
8 8 Merckle Group (Phoenix, Kässbohrer, etc.) 29,883.2 37,900 Merckle 1881 Private 4 Yes Yes Asset & Wealth Management Ulm BW -
9 9 Heraeus 23,236.8 14,903 Heraeus 1851 Private 5 No No Industrial Manufacturing Hanau HE
10 10 Henkel AG & Co. KGaA 22,844.1 53,000 Henkel 1876 Public 5 No Yes Consumer Products Düsseldorf NW
Rank Company Revenues 2018 $m Employees Family ownership Founded Public/Private Generation Family executive Woman in leadership Sector Headquarters State (abbreviation) Website


Family Capital with the support of PWC compiled the 500 ranking through extensive research of publicly available sources. Sourced material was independently verified and no source material was obtained from Family Capitalor PWC’s client relationships. The ranking was based on revenues.

“In order to qualify for the ranking, the family or group of families would have to control at least 50% of the voting shares in a privately held company and at least 30% of the voting rights in a publicly listed company. The 30% cut-off is motivated by the observation that in most economies 30% of voting shares are sufficient to dominate the general assembly of a publicly listed company. This is because on average 60% of the entire voting shareholders are present at a general assembly of a listed business.”

To be considered a family business, Family Capital has selected only companies that are 20 years (from June 2018) and older. This 20-year time frame corresponds on average with a level of transition from first-generation control to at least some participation of the next generation of the family owners.

Generation: The latest generation to be involved with the business. Other earlier generations might still be involved in the business

Family executives: Family involvement either at the executive or supervisory board level

Women in leadership: Women involvement at the C-suit level, CEO, COO, CFO.

State abbreviations

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BB Brandenburg; BE Berlin; BW Baden-Württemberg; BY Bavaria; HB Bremen; HE Hessen; HH Hamburg; NI Lower Saxony; NW North Rhine-Westphalia; RP Rhineland-Palatinate; SH Schleswig Holstein; SL Saarland; SN Saxony; ST Saxony-Anhalt


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Who are the richest families in Germany? ›

As of November 2022, Beate Heister and Karl Albrecht Jr., the owners of the supermarket chain Aldi (in Germany Aldi Süd), were the wealthiest Germans, based on a ranking by Forbes. Dieter Schwarz (owner of the Schwarz-Gruppe) and Klaus-Michael Kühnecame in second and third place respectively.

How many Mittelstand companies are there in Germany? ›

Der Mittelstand

There are 3.5 million Mittelstand companies in Germany. Eighty percent of these firms have fewer than ten employees.

Which is the best German company? ›

2019 Fortune list
RankFortune 500 rankName
218Daimler AG
24 more rows

How many companies are there in Germany? ›

In 2018, the total number of enterprises in the non-financial business economy in Germany amounted to around 2.6 million. Around 11,000 of these had over 250 employees, the vast majority of enterprises however had between 0 and 9 employees and accounted for around 2.2 million of German non-financial business.

Who are the top 5 richest families? ›

  • ↓ Name Walton. Company Walmart. Wealth $224.5bn. ...
  • ↑ Name Mars. Company Mars. Wealth $160bn. ...
  • ↑ Name Koch. Company Koch Industries. Wealth $128.8bn. ...
  • ↑ Name Al Saud. Company N/A. ...
  • ↓ Name Hermes. Company Hermes. ...
  • ↓ Name Ambani. Company Reliance Industries. ...
  • ↑ Name Wertheimer. Company Chanel. ...
  • ↑ Name Cargill, MacMillan. Company Cargill.
28 Oct 2022

Who is the richest family on Earth? ›

Which 10 Families Are the Wealthiest?
  • The Waltons with $212 billion24.
  • The Mars family with $142 billion.
  • The Kochs with $124 billion.
  • The Hermès family with $112 billion.
  • The Sauds with $100 billion.
  • The Ambanis with $94 billion.
  • The Wertheimers with $62 billion.
  • The Johnsons with $61 billion.

What is Germany famous for in business? ›

Well-known international brands include Mercedes-Benz, BMW, SAP, Volkswagen, Audi, Siemens, Allianz, Adidas, Porsche, Deutsche Bahn, Deutsche Bank and Bosch. Germany is recognised for its large portion of specialised small and medium enterprises, known as the Mittelstand model.

What is the biggest German company? ›

Largest companies by market capitalization in Germany 2022

SAP was the leading company in Germany by market capitalization as of November 2022, with approximately 127.2 billion U.S. dollars. SAP was established in 1972 in Germany and is the largest software company in Europe.

What are the three largest German companies? ›

15 Largest German Companies by Revenue
  • EnBW Energie. Revenue: $51.55 Billion. ...
  • Munich RE (Münchener Rück) Revenue: $73.04 Billion. ...
  • BASF. Revenue: $94.98 Billion.
23 Oct 2022

Why Germany is the best country for business? ›

Germany is one of the most enticing countries in Europe for international business investment. It is an appealing investment destination due to its central location, convenient access to other EU markets, good infrastructure, and highly qualified workforce.

What is Germany famous for? ›

Germany is well known for many things. It has a strong economy, it is the birthplace of classical music and philosophy, it has a rich culture, and it is known for its scenic beauty. Additionally, Germany is known for its engineering and automotive industry, as well as its precision manufacturing.

What is the most popular industry in Germany? ›

Germany's principal industries include machine building, automobiles, electrical engineering and electronics, chemicals, and food processing. Automobile manufacturing is concentrated in Baden-Württemberg, Lower Saxony, Hessen, North Rhine–Westphalia, Bavaria, the Saarland, and Thuringia.

What is the richest German company? ›

Volkswagen had by far the highest annual revenue of all companies based in Germany in 2020, at approximately 282 billion U.S. dollars. Daimler had the second highest annual revenue at 193 billion U.S. dollars, followed by Allianz which had a revenue of 130 billion U.S. dollars.

What industries are growing in Germany? ›

The Chemical and Medical Industry, as well as the Consumer and Service Industries, are also the fastest growing industries.
Emerging Sectors in Germany
  • Machinery.
  • Automotive (Mercedes-Benz)
  • Research and Energy.
  • Environmental Technology Industry.
30 Oct 2022

What are the most profitable businesses in Germany? ›

The 57 Most Profitable German Companies
RankCompanyProfits ($bil)
2Deutsche Bank6.93
4RWE Group4.98
53 more rows
16 May 2010

Who are the 3 richest families in the world? ›

The U.S. is home to the three richest families in the world. The Walton, Mars and Koch families have topped the list of wealthiest clans in the world, according to a September report from Bloomberg. The families have remained in their positions as the richest in the U.S. and in the world for several years.

Who is the richest family in Europe? ›

1Bernard Arnault70
2Amancio Ortega83
3Françoise Bettencourt Meyers65
4Beate Heister & Karl Albrecht Jr.67/71
12 more rows

Who is richest royal family in the world? ›

The Richest Royals in the World
  • Country: Jordan.
  • Net worth: $1 billion.
  • Country: Monaco.
  • Net worth: $2.1 billion.
  • Country: Morocco.
  • Net worth: $20 billion.
  • Country: Saudi Arabia.
  • More From GOBankingRates.
3 Oct 2022

Who is the richest parents in the world? ›

The Walton family is the richest family in the world. If you've bought even a pair of socks at Walmart, you have in a small way increased the massive, massive fortune amassed by the Walton family.

Who is the richest person who lived? ›

The last Nizam of Hyderabad State in British India, he is regarded as the wealthiest person in the world during his lifetime; his portrait was on the cover of Time magazine in 1937.

What is the major business in Germany? ›

Industrial Production

Germany is the world's leading machinery and equipment manufacturer and the preferred location for investors looking to produce in Europe. It is also Europe' top location for electronics or chemical production.

What is the 2 main product of Germany? ›

Trade In August 2022, the top exports of Germany were Pharmaceutical products (€9.92B), Motor cars and motor caravans (€9.81B), Chassis, bodies, engines etc. for motor... (€6.84B), Machinery for electricity production, distribution (€6.6B), and Other machinery (€4.75B).

Why is Germany so good at industry? ›

The Realschule prepares students to be skilled and highly productive workers, typically in a manufacturing company. The pragmatic and skills-oriented training and education of workers gets a real boost from Germany's unique apprentice system, where on the job training is combined with more formal classroom teaching.

What are the strongest industries in Germany? ›

Largest economy in the European Union. Germany's main exports are cars, machinery, chemicals, computers, and electronics. 11th in the Index of Economic Freedom, 2022. 27% GDP growth in 2021.

What are the 7 biggest companies in the world? ›

This can lower or even outweigh potential returns.
  • #1 Walmart Inc. (WMT)
  • #2 China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (SNP)
  • #3 Inc. (AMZN)
  • #4 PetroChina Co. Ltd. (PTR)
  • #5 Apple Inc. (AAPL)
  • #6 CVS Health Corp. (CVS)
  • #7 Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDS. A)
  • #8 Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK. A)

Is Germany a rich country? ›

In 2021, Germany was ranked the 20th richest country in the world, measured by GDP per capita. This means that if you add up the value of all the goods and commodities produced in a country and divide the figure by the number of inhabitants, you get $50,700 (€52,200) per person per year in Germany on average.

Why are so many companies based in Germany? ›

Significant spending power, the spirit of innovation, its location at the heart of a dense transport network in the centre of Europe and highly skilled workers – all of these are benefits offered by Germany as a business location.

What are German companies called? ›

GmbH is an abbreviation of the German phrase “Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung,” which means "company with limited liability." It's a suffix used after a private limited company's name in Germany (versus AG, which is used to indicate a public limited company).

What Germany produces the most? ›

Most of the country's exports are in engineering, especially machinery, automobiles, chemical goods and metals. Germany is a leading producer of wind turbines and solar-power technology.

Why Germany is good for startups? ›

Strong Dynamic Economy

As a result, Germany is one of the European leaders in innovation. Germany is among the countries with the highest purchasing power in Europe, with a per capita spending power of €24,412 in 2021 – fresh ideas can easily find a market here.

Is Germany a successful country? ›

Germany is the world's fourth-largest economy, highly innovative and has a strong focus on exports. The future lies in Industry 4.0. Germany is the largest economy in the European Union.
The world's largest trading nations in 2018 (share of world exports)
5 more rows

Why is Germany good investment? ›

Germany's central location within Europe gives investors access to the entire market of the European Union as well as the markets of Central and Eastern Europe. With the highest GNP and the largest population in the European Union, Germany is Europe's most important market.

Why Germany is best for Masters? ›

There are many great advantages for studying in Germany. Excellent universities offer a wide range of courses, many taught in English. Most courses have no tuition fees, and students should find the cost of living affordable.

What are 5 important facts about Germany? ›

But for now, here are bits for you to chew on.
  • The largest train station in Europe is in Berlin.
  • Berlin is 9 times bigger than Paris.
  • There are more than 20,000 castles in Germany.
  • Germany is the EU's largest economy.
  • German is the third most widely taught language in the world.
  • The German language has 35 dialects.
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Why is the German economy so strong? ›

In the business world, it is well known that Germany has a strong economy and worldwide trading reputation, but why is this? The German economy's competitiveness and worldwide networking can be attributed to its elevated level of innovation and strong export orientation.

What contributes most to the German economy? ›

Distribution of gross domestic product (GDP) across economic sectors Germany 2021. The services sector is the largest in Germany and has been generating a steady share of around 60 percent of gross domestic product since 2007.

What are the major sectors of the German economy? ›

Germany: Share of economic sectors in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021
CharacteristicShare in GDP
Agriculture, forestry and fishery0.9%
Production industry (excl. construction)23.5%
23 Mar 2022

What are the most famous companies in Germany? ›

German industry's big five
  • Volkswagen. With its twelve brands, this automobile manufacturer is the undisputed number one among the largest German companies. ...
  • Daimler. ...
  • Allianz. ...
  • BMW. ...
  • Siemens.
17 Jun 2019

Who is the 8th richest person in Germany? ›

Andreas Struengmann is placed 8th with a net worth of $13.2 billion.

How many millionaires are there in Germany? ›

Countries by number and percentage of millionaires
Country or subnational areaNumber of millionairesShare of global millionaires (%)
Japan *3,365,6166.5
United Kingdom *2,849,3445.3
Germany *2,638,0564.4
36 more rows

What are the top 5 most profitable businesses? ›

Most Profitable Business Ideas
  1. Business Consulting. If you're an expert in your industry and have been working at it for years, you should consider consulting. ...
  2. IT Support, Technology Consulting, and Repair. ...
  3. Cleaning Services. ...
  4. Accounting and Tax Preparation. ...
  5. Auto Repair. ...
  6. Real Estate.

How much capital do you need to start a business in Germany? ›

This stands for Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung which is essentially equivalent to a limited liability company. GmbH's require founders to contribute €25,000 in capital, or to build up their capital from €1 to the required amount (so-called Mini-GmbH's).

Who is considered wealthy in Germany? ›

How much do you need to earn to be considered “wealthy” in Germany? It's actually less than you might think. According to a new income analysis by the German Economic Institute (IW), a single person who earns a salary of more than 3.700 euros net per month is part of the highest-earning 10 percent in the country.

Where do the wealthy live in Germany? ›

Hamburg has the highest density of millionaires and its vast corporations in the media, entertainment and commercial industry have established a strong economy.

What is a good family income in Germany? ›

A good salary in Germany not only depends on your lifestyle but also on where you live as the cost of living differs from city to city. A good annual gross salary in Germany is between €64,000 to €81,000. But most Germans who earn a yearly gross salary of €60,000 and above are happy with their salary.

Who is the richest European family? ›

RankNameNet worth (USD):
1Bernard Arnault198.9 billion
2Amancio Ortega77.0 billion
3Françoise Bettencourt Meyers73.6 billion
4François Pinault42.3 billion
26 more rows

What salary is rich in Germany? ›

60.000 euros a year in Germany is considered a good gross salary as it is well above the average salary of 47.700 euros a year for the whole country. Most Germans who earn 60.000 euros or more are very happy with their salary.

Can you be a millionaire in Germany? ›

Despite soaring inflation, the number of millionaires in Germany has risen in the past year to around 1,6 million. That means that around one in 52 people in Germany is now classed as a millionaire.

What is the highest paying job in Germany? ›

Top 10 Highest Paid Professions in Germany 2022 - 23
  • Researchers in Biotechnology and Neuroscience. ...
  • Surgeons and doctors. ...
  • Judges. ...
  • Bank managers. ...
  • Director of Finance. ...
  • Tourism and hospitality professionals. ...
  • Engineering professions. ...
  • Sales managers.
3 Aug 2022

What is the safest city in Germany? ›

Munich. Munich is probably the safest city to live in Germany. A survey conducted in 2020 found that the crime rate in Munich is pretty low compared to Berlin because out of 100,000, only 6,469 people experienced any criminal activity.

How safe is Germany to live? ›

Germany is considered one of the most peaceful and safest countries in the world; the crime rates are relatively very low.

Why Germany is the best place to live? ›

All in all, Germany is a country where you can find both the fast city life or the quiet sub-urban experience, all from a position of safety, security and stability. In short, the country's safety, highly developed infrastructure and robust economy allow Germany to offer you a very stable reason to move to the country.

What is a good salary in Germany for a family of 3? ›

Ideally, anywhere between 55,000 to 70,000 Euros annual gross is a good salary in Germany for a developer or an IT professional. If the employer is offering you more, then just go for it.

What is a low income family in Germany? ›

In 2018, almost one in six people (15.8%) lived below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold in Germany. In 2018, the threshold stood at 1,040 euros per month for a one-person household, and at roughly 1,352 euros for a one-parent household with one child (under 14 years).

How much money does a family of 4 Need Germany? ›

On average, to cover your living expenses in Germany you will need around 934 euros per month (around $906 US dollars) or 11,208 euros per year (around $10,876 US dollars). The prices for food, accommodation, bills, clothes and entertainment are basically in line with the EU average.

Who is the richest person ever? ›

Who was the richest person ever? The richest person ever is thought to have been an emperor with an accumulation of wealth often described as “unimaginable” or “incalculable.” The title goes to 14th-century African emperor Mansa Musa, and his wealth has been estimated to be the modern day equivalent of $400 billion.

Is there a trillionaire family in the world? ›

As of today, there are no trillionaires who live on earth. It is definitely not Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos. Such extreme wealth we dont see in our lifetime. Believe it or not it is an unbelievable wealth.


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