BMW matriarch Johanna Bruhn Quandt has passed away at the age of 89. Born June 21, 1926 in Berlin, Johanna was the daughter of art historians.Although she had aspired for a career in medical technology, her training was disrupted byWorld War II, and she ended up working as a secretary for a banker in Cologne before joining Quandt’s office in Bom Hamburg in the mid 1950’s. She eventually became his personal assistant and major business confident as he succeeded in turning BMW from an ailing company into the largest luxury car manufacturer in German, and finally became his 3rd wife in 1960.
BMW was originally founded in 1916, but did not become an established business entity until a restructuring of the Rapp Motorenwerke aircraft manufacturing firm in 1917. After the end of World War I in 1918, BMW was forced to cease aircraft-engine production by the terms of the Versailles Armistice Treaty, and ended up switching its operations to producing motorcycles, followed by automobiles in 1928–29. While it still manufactures motorcycles under BMW Morrad, the company also owns and produces Mini cars, is the parent company of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, and now makes plug-in electric cars under the BMW i sub-brand, not to mention its full line of world famous luxury automobiles.
At the time of his death 22-years later on June 2, 1982, Johanna inherited 16.7% of the Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (Baverian Motor Works) company, while their children, Stefan and Susanne split another 30.1% between them. BMW is now valued at $65.3 million according to Bloomberg Business, which also ranked Quandt (said to have been worth $11.5 at the time of her passing) as 98th in its overall Billionaire Index, and 8th in Germany. In addition, Johanna reportedly owned a stake in Datacard Group (a closely maintained credit-card and passport maker in Minnetonka , MN, as well as stock in Amsterdam-based security software designer.
Johanna remained on BMW’s advisory board until 1997 (the same year her children joined the board). She also started her own foundation to support young people interested in careers as business journalists in 1995. Although she rarely spoke to the press, herself, Quandt’s foundation also awards an annual media prize.
Note: Herbert Quandt was born in Pritzwalk. Germany on June 22, 1910; and although he was left nearly blind due to retinal scars at age 9, he grew up to be a highly successful industrialist, eventually taking over interests in many of the companies acquired by his father, including AFA, later VARTA AG, in 1940. Following WW II, he began to rebuild many of them, including BMW of which the Quandt Group owned a 30% interest). Although its management had recommended selling BMW to Daimler-Benz in 1959, Herbert Quandt blocked the move at the last minute, increased his shares in the company to 50% and turned it into a success.