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German family business profile: Bosch

By Michael Finnigan

Founded in 1886, Bosch has grown to become one of the largest multinational engineering and electronics companies in the world. The Gerlingen-headquartered firm had revenues of €70.6 billion ($80.5 billion) in 2015.




German industrialist Robert Bosch founded precursor firm “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering” in 1886. One year later, Bosch introduced his first product: a low voltage magneto (electrical generator) for gas motors. Over the next two decades Bosch saw significant global expansion, with offices opening in London, Paris, and New York. Before his death in 1942, Bosch restructured his firm as a private limited company, Robert Bosch GmbH, and stipulated that earnings should be designated to charitable causes. 




The ownership structure of Robert Bosch GmbH guarantees the entrepreneurial freedom of the Bosch Group, making it possible for the company to plan over the long term and to undertake significant up-front investments in the safeguarding of its future, as it explains on its website. In keeping with the founder's wishes, 92% of share capital is owned by a charitable foundation: Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH. The remaining shares are held by eight members of the third generation, and Robert Bosch's last remaining child, Eva Madelung. Dr Christof Bosch, a member of Bosch's supervisory board, represents them.




Bosch has invested heavily into research and recently opened a new research and development centre near Stuttgart. Its 1,700 researchers are looking to develop new methods of transport ranging from autonomous-vehicle technology to the next generation of electric vehicle batteries. As a leading supplier to the global automotive industry, Bosch can help steer burgeoning mobility sectors in any way they see fit. They have already found some success with their electric bicycle products, which are increasingly popular in Europe.