top of page

Susanne Klatten: A Visionary Billionaire Shaping Legacy Beyond Wealth

 

This is the first blog post in a while where we cover DACH billionaires involved in the tech and startup scene.

 

Susanne Hanna Ursula Klatten was born on April 28, 1962, in Bad Homburg, Germany to Johanna Quandt and Herbert Quandt, a wealthy German industrialist. She inherited a substantial fortune from her father, Herbert Quandt, who played a pivotal role in saving BMW. Large shareholders tried to merge BMW at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in December 1959 with Mercedes, because the company was struggling. Herbert Quandt got the turnaround plan approved at the AGM 1960 and led the successful turnaround.


Growing up in a wealthy family, Susanne Klatten was exposed to business early on. Her father’s legacy and the Quandt family’s ties to the automotive industry shaped her future.


After gaining a degree in business finance, Susanne Klatten honed her skills at the advertising agency Young & Rubicam in Frankfurt from 1981 to 1983 where she completed an apprenticeship. She furthered her education by pursuing course studies in marketing and management at the University of Buckingham.


She also earns an MBA from IMD Business School in Lausanne, Switzerland specializing in advertising. Susanne Klatten gained practical experience in London, working with institutions such as Dresdner Bank, the Munich branch of management consultants McKinsey, and Bankhaus Reuschel & Co. She sometimes worked under the pseudonym Susanne Kant.


Susanne Klatten’s investments and business ventures, focusing on BMW, Altana, and her interest in sustainable energy:

Susanne Klatten inherited a 12.50% stake in BMW from her father, Herbert Quandt. Following her mother’s passing, her stake increased to 19.2%. Her connection to BMW runs deep, and she actively contributes to the company’s governance and strategic oversight. In 1997, Susanne Klatten joined the supervisory board of BMW alongside her brother, Stefan Quandt. Her responsibilities included compliance, risk management, and monitoring the company’s operations.


Susanne Klatten, as a member of the Supervisory Board of BMW AG, held significant responsibilities related to governance and oversight. Here are the key aspects of her role:


Susanne Klatten ensured that all provisions of law and international regulations were adhered to. She played a crucial role in implementing an appropriate risk management and risk-controlling system within BMW. Regular reporting to the Supervisory Board was part of her responsibilities. As a representative of BMW, she deals with external parties. Her role involved representing the company’s interests in various contexts. Susanne Klatten actively monitored the company’s operations and performance. She contributed to strategic decisions and provided oversight. She participated in committees within the Supervisory Board, including the Nomination Committee.


BMW also owns the brands Mini and Rolls Royce.

After her father’s death, Susanne Klatten inherited his 50.1% stake in Altana, a pharmaceutical and chemicals manufacturer. She didn’t merely hold this inheritance; she actively shaped Altana’s trajectory. In 2006, Altana AG divested its pharmaceutical activities to Nycomed for a staggering €4.5 billion. The proceeds were distributed to shareholders as a dividend. Altana continued as a specialty chemicals business, and Susanne Klatten remained its majority shareholder. Through her wholly owned entities Altana and SKion, Susanne Klatten holds a 46% stake in Landa Digital Printing. Founded by Israeli entrepreneur Benny Landa, this company specializes in digital printing and nanotechnology.


She diversified her portfolio by investing in SGL Carbon, a company specializing in carbon and graphite materials. SGL Carbon plays a crucial role in various industries, including automotive, aerospace, and renewable energy. Susanne Klatten’s passion for sustainable energy led her to invest in wind farms and solar energy projects. These ventures align with her commitment to environmental conservation and clean energy solutions.

Her investments span the automotive industry, specialty chemicals, and sustainable energy. Her strategic vision and active involvement have left an indelible mark on these ventures.


Susanne Klatten is actively involved in philanthropic endeavors. She established the SK Foundation to focus on education, science, and culture. The foundation provides scholarships to deserving students, enabling them to pursue higher education. Susanne Klatten actively supports research projects across various disciplines, fostering scientific progress. The foundation contributes to cultural preservation efforts, recognizing the importance of heritage and artistic expression. She actively supports the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Her contributions extend beyond business and wealth, emphasizing civic duty and public service.


Since 2005, Susanne Klatten has been a part of the University Council of the Technical University of Munich. Her engagement in educational institutions demonstrates her commitment to advancing knowledge and learning. This also includes backing to UnternehmerTUM an entity to educate entrepreneurs, which played an important role in establishing Munich as a leading tech hub in Europe. You can learn more about UnternehmerTUM in our interview with them:



In recognition of her philanthropic efforts, Susanne Klatten was awarded the “Bayerischer Verdienstorden”, which is the Bavarian Order of Merit. Her impact extends beyond financial contributions -she actively shapes education and research.


Susanne Klatten, despite her immense wealth, maintains a low profile, avoiding unnecessary public attention. She was married to Swiss entrepreneur Jan Klatten, and the couple has three children. The couple split in 2018. Their lives remain largely shielded from the public eye, emphasizing her commitment to privacy and discretion.


Susanne Klatten’s net worth was estimated by Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index in May 2024 to be 28.3 billion US$. Her wealth places her among the most affluent individuals globally. She consistently ranks among the richest individuals worldwide. Her financial influence and business acumen contribute to her prominent position in global wealth rankings.


Susanne Klatten’s remarkable journey- from heiress to influential

businesswoman -serves as an inspiration, and her impact extends beyond financial success.

Comments


bottom of page