Otto Beisheim was born on 3 January 1924 in Voßnacken near Velbert. After attending school in Mühlheim an der Ruhr, he started a commercial apprenticeship there in 1938. But his professional life was interrupted by the Second World War.
In October 1942, 18-year-old Otto Beisheim joined the Waffen-SS and completed basic training in Munich. He suffered from multiple injuries on the Eastern Front and, following his recovery, completed his service as a private in an administrative department. At the end of the war, in 1945, Otto Beisheim was captured by the British Military and became a prisoner of war. After his release in March 1946 he continued his vocational training in business.
His business sense as well as his feel for innovation enabled him to keep striking new paths. In 1964 Otto Beisheim was named chief executive of METRO and transformed it into an internationally successful retail company by introducing the cash & carry model. Together with Otto Beisheim, the families Schmidt-Ruthenbeck and Haniel were equal shareholders of METRO until its IPO in 1996.
From the 1990s onward, Otto Beisheim also devoted himself to new entrepreneurial activities, including the development of start-up companies. From 1988 Otto Beisheim and his wife Inge became involved with the WHU, the Wissenschaftliche Hochschule für Unternehmensführung (School of Management) in Vallendar near Koblenz, which today is one of the most renowned business schools in Europe. Otto Beisheim's charitable commitment played an important role throughout his life.
Otto Beisheim died on February 18, 2013 at the age of 89 in Rottach-Egern, Bavaria. The foundations that bear his name continue his philanthropic legacy.
Otto Beisheim bequeathed his estate to a Swiss and a German foundation. The two charitable foundations of the same name are legally independent entities. They each have their own investment companies, which exclusively manage and invest their respectve assets.
Otto Beisheim’s life, from birth until the founding of METRO in 1964, were analyzed in an independent study by Professor Dr. Joachim Scholtyseck (Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn). A particular emphasis was placed on the period of National Socialism in Germany. The findings are published in “Otto Beisheim – Jugend, Soldatenzeit und Entwicklung zum Handelspionier”, released by publishing house Schöningh Verlag (Link).
A summary of the findings (in German) can be found here.