Four Generations of Success
1897 - 1920
The Klett Group's origins can be traced back to the year 1897. It was then that Ernst Klett (Sr.) took over the Königliche Hofbuchdruckerei zu Gutenberg, a royal printing press that had already been in operation for more than 50 years. At the time, Klett's endeavours centred on this printing works, an affiliated billposting institute, and a small publishing house specialised in musicology. The company has been family-owned ever since.
With an eye towards setting up new, more modern printing machines, the young firm moved into a new building at Rotebühlstraße 77 in Stuttgart in the spring of 1900, which remains its headquarters to this day.
The 1920s saw Klett publish its first schoolbooks for the Württemberg region of southwest Germany. Fritz Klett also joined the company in 1921. Along with his father, Ernst Klett (Sr.), he succeeded in expanding its publishing and delivery operations and developing its print shop into a prosperous midsize organisation.
Ernst and Fritz Klett also managed to guide the company through the extreme inflation that followed the First World War in Germany.
1936 - 1944
In 1936, Ernst Klett (Jr.) began working at the company with a primary focus on its publishing business. Klett also turned part of its attention from musicology to fiction and non-fiction. While most of its publishing activities were put on hold during the Second World War, the company's facilities on Rotebühlstraße were largely spared by the conflict.
1945 - 1968
After the end of the war, Klett received a licence to recommence its printing and publishing activities from the American military government in 1945. The company also established its own independent publishing house for textbooks to complement its general publishing house for fiction, non-fiction, and psychoanalysis. Fritz Klett's son Roland then joined the family business in 1953; he would go on to initiate a modernisation effort in its printing operations. The publishing house quickly developed into one of West Germany's largest and most successful publishing houses and began offering textbooks throughout the country.
The decision to make some small changes to the publishing house our father had founded in 1936 and make it a bit more professional didn’t take more than a few minutes.
1969 - 1989
In 1969, Michael Klett – the eldest son of Ernst Klett (Jr.) – became a company partner and a member of its management board. He would go on to direct its publishing house in 1976. Michael's younger brother, Thomas, joined him on the board and as a partner in 1973. Representing the third generation of Klett management, they overcame one of the first crises faced by the company's printing division, as well as a decline in the number of students in Germany. This was what prompted Klett to expand in the 1970s and ‘80s through acquisitions (of the Axel Andersson Akademie, for example, which is now the Hamburger Akademie für Fernstudien), holdings (in the Friedrich Verlag and Esslinger Verlag publishing houses), and the foundation of new companies (such as PONS). It thus evolved into a corporate group spanning a diverse range of business areas. The publishing partnership Klett-Cotta then began bolstering the group's efforts in fiction in 1977. The Klett Group would eventually give up the traditional core of its business – its print shop – in 1989.
1990 - 1999
In 1990, Ernst Klett Verlag Leipzig became the first branch of a West German publishing house to begin operating in the former East Germany. The transformation of Ernst Klett GmbH & Co. KG (which had been established in 1992) into a publicly traded company in 1995 then ushered in an effort to restructure its business areas and acquire stakes in additional organisations. The 1990s also saw the Klett Group increase its activities outside of Germany, including in Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, the former Yugoslavia, and France. In addition, it founded the company Deutsche Weiterbildungsgesellschaft (DWG) as a framework for building and expanding its distance-learning schools and universities.
2000 - today
The first decade of the 21st century was marked by considerable growth. The foundation of the Hamburg distance-learning university Europäische Fernhochschule (2001) and the healthcare-focused Apollon Hochschule der Gesundheitswirtschaft (2005) represented milestones in Klett's targeted effort to build its business in adult and continuing education. The group's distance-learning schools and universities along with its attendance-based universities have made it the leading private provider of continuing education in the German-speaking market. For 10 years now, attendance-based learning facilities ranging from crèches to secondary schools have also been rounding out the Klett Group's services and furthering its evolution into a diversified education company.
Today, this family-run organisation operates as a publicly traded company under the management of board members Christian Döttinger, Philipp Haußmann, Lothar Kleiner, Dr. David Klett and Tilo Knoche. Philipp Haußmann and Dr. David Klett represent the fourth generation of the Klett family to guide the group's fortunes.