The origins of Ernst Klett AG date back to 1897, when the publishing house and printing shop Carl Grüninger Verlagsbuchhandlung/ Königl. Hofbuchdruckerei Gutenberg became a general partnership. Its partners were the businessman Ernst Klett and his brother-in-law, Julius Hartmann. The company has been family-owned ever since. Part of the plot of land on Rotebühlstrasse was acquired in 1899. In spring of 1900, Klett and Hartmann moved into the newly built house at Rotebühlstrasse 77, where the company’s head office is located to this day.
Fritz joined the company in 1921. Together with his father Ernst Klett senior, he succeeded in expanding the publishing house and distribution and making the printing shop a successful medium-sized business. The two were also concerned about the social needs of their employees. For example, they set up an employee assistance fund which guaranteed workers and salaried employees financial support in old age or in the event of a grave illness – an initiative which was way ahead of its time. In 1928, the company began operating under the name Ernst Klett. The humble beginnings of the regional textbook programme were expanded upon four years later: the publishing house took over the textbook department of the Bonz Verlag and became the largest supplier in Württemberg.
Ernst Klett junior joined the company in 1936. To resume operation of the publishing house after the war, a license from the American military government was required. Klett obtained this license on 23 November 1945: in addition to the general publishing house, there was now an independent textbook publishing house, which quickly developed into one of the largest and most successful in Germany.
On 8 February 1947, Ernst Klett senior died at the age of 84. On 9 June 1951, Fritz Klett succumbed to car-accident related injuries at the age of 55. His son Roland Klett joined the company in 1953 and initiated a push for modernisation at the printing shop. One of the results of this push was the construction of a new factory building in Korb from 1963 to 1967, where sales and distribution are handled to this day.
Michael Klett, the eldest son of Ernst Klett junior, became a partner and member of the executive board in 1969. His younger brother Thomas Klett followed his lead in 1973. In 1976, Michael Klett replaced his father as director of the publishing house. The founding of the publishing house cooperative Klett-Cotta in 1977 made expansion of the fiction sector possible. Through further acquisitions, co-operations and startups, Klett expanded into a consortium with diversified business units. The printing shop, one of the traditional mainstays, was abandoned in 1989. Since then, Klett has operated almost exclusively as an educational company.
In 1990, Ernst Klett Verlag Leipzig became the first subsidiary of a West German publishing house in former East Germany. Ernst Klett GmbH & Co. KG, which was created in 1992, became a corporation in 1995. The business portfolio was subsequently restructured and more shares were taken over. Roland Klett was appointed chairman of the advisory board and was superseded two years later by Thomas Klett. Michael Klett was appointed CEO. The Klett Group expanded heavily abroad – in Switzerland, then Austria, Spain, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and the countries of the former Yugoslavia and Greece. Furthermore, the company founded the Deutsche Weiterbildungsgesellschaft (DWG) in 1994 and, under its aegis, established and expanded the field of distance learning schools and colleges.
The founding of the Apollon Hochschule der Gesundheitswirtschaft, Bremen in 2005 and the acquisition of the FORUM Institut für Management, Heidelberg in 2009 were landmarks in the development of the Klett Group into a diverse educational company. In May 2009, Michael Klett resigned as CEO. Philipp Haußmann became the spokesperson for the now three-member management board consisting of himself, Thomas Baumann and Arthur Zimmermann. For well over 100 years, the Klett Group has stood for economic success and innovation in the fields of education and culture. This solid base set the stage for the continued successful growth of employees and management in Germany and Europe.