Werner Otto: The Life and Wealth of a Successful Entrepreneur

Estimated read time 4 min read
source: https://www.ndr.de/geschichte/koepfe/Werner-Otto-Portraet-des-Unternehmensgruenders,otto168.html
NameWerner Otto
BirthdateAugust 13, 1909
BirthplaceCologne, Germany
Death DateDecember 21, 2011
OccupationBusinessman, Entrepreneur
Net Worth$3.3 billion (at the time of his death)
BusinessesFounder of the Otto Group
PhilanthropyEstablished the Werner Otto Foundation with his wife
Notable AchievementsPioneer of installment payments in the mail-order industry; turned the Otto Group into one of the largest mail-order and online retail companies in the world.

Werner Otto was a German entrepreneur and founder of the mail order and retail company, Otto Group. He was born on August 13, 1909, in Siegsdorf, Bavaria, Germany. Otto’s family was wealthy and had interests in retail and trading. His father ran a successful food import and export business.

After completing his education, Otto worked for several years at his family’s business, gaining experience in sales and retail. In 1949, he founded the Otto Group, starting with a small mail-order business selling shoes. The business grew rapidly, and by the 1960s, it had expanded into a major retailer, with a wide range of products and a strong presence in Europe.

Otto was a visionary entrepreneur, and under his leadership, the Otto Group embraced new technologies and innovative business models. He was one of the first German retailers to introduce the concept of credit purchasing, allowing customers to buy products on credit. He also introduced the first computer-based inventory management system in Germany, which revolutionized the retail industry.

Otto remained actively involved in the company until his death in 2011, at the age of 102. At the time of his death, he was one of the richest people in Germany, with an estimated net worth of $16.7 billion.

Throughout his life, Werner Otto was known for his philanthropy and support of charitable causes. He established the Werner Otto Foundation, which supports research in medicine, science, and technology, as well as cultural and social initiatives. He also made significant contributions to the development of arts and culture in Germany.

In addition to his business achievements and philanthropy, Werner Otto was a devoted family man. He was married to his wife, Maja, for over 60 years, and they had five children together. Otto passed away peacefully at his home in Bavaria, surrounded by his family.

Despite his immense wealth, Werner Otto was known for his humble and down-to-earth personality. He believed that success should be shared with others and that wealth should be used to make a positive impact on society.

Today, the Otto Group remains a major player in the retail industry, with operations in more than 30 countries and annual revenues of over $14 billion. Werner Otto’s legacy continues to inspire and influence entrepreneurs around the world.


1924 – Werner Otto was born on August 13, in Berlin, Germany.

1948 – Werner Otto married his wife, Eva Otto.

1949 – Otto founded his first mail-order business, Werner Otto Versandhandel, in Hamburg, Germany.

1950 – Werner Otto’s mail-order business starts offering installment payments, which boosts sales and attracts more customers.

1960 – Werner Otto’s company becomes a publicly traded company and changes its name to Otto Versand.

1981 – Werner Otto retires as CEO and hands over the company to his sons, Michael and Thomas.

1985 – Werner Otto and his wife establish the Werner Otto Foundation to support social and cultural projects.

1990 – Werner Otto’s Otto Group becomes one of the largest mail-order and online retail companies in the world.

2011 – Werner Otto passes away on December 21, in Berlin, Germany, at the age of 87.

Throughout his life, Werner Otto was a pioneer in the retail industry, and his innovative approaches to mail-order shopping transformed the way people shop.

5 Interesting Facts About Werner Otto:

  1. He started his first mail-order business at the age of 24, using his own savings to launch it.
  2. Werner Otto is credited with pioneering the concept of installment payments in the mail-order industry, which allowed more people to afford products they would not have been able to otherwise.
  3. Under his leadership, the Otto Group became one of the largest mail-order and online retail companies in the world.
  4. Werner Otto was also known for his philanthropy and established the Werner Otto Foundation with his wife to support social and cultural projects.
  5. Despite his success, Werner Otto remained a humble and down-to-earth person, valuing his relationships with family and friends above all else.

5 Quotes From Werner Otto:

  1. “Success in business requires training and discipline and hard work. But if you’re not frightened by these things, the opportunities are just as great today as they ever were.”
  2. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
  3. “The customer is the most important asset of any business.”
  4. “One must always be prepared for life to take a turn that is not anticipated.”
  5. “I have never cared about being rich. It was always important for me to live my own life.”

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