Claus Wisser was a prominent German businessman known not only for his entrepreneurial success but also for his significant contributions to the world of arts, culture, and charitable endeavors. Let’s delve into the life and achievements of Claus Wisser.
Early Life and Education
Claus Wisser was born on June 30, 1942, in Wiesbaden, Germany, into a family of shopkeepers. He attended the Friedrich List School and began helping in the family shop from a young age. Despite the early responsibilities, he showed remarkable dedication to education and public engagement.
While still in school, Wisser joined the Social Democratic Party (SPD), demonstrating his early commitment to political involvement. He pursued higher education in business administration at the University of Frankfurt. During his university years, he actively participated in the student protests against the German Emergency Acts and attended public lectures by notable figures like Carlo Schmid.
In 1965, at the age of 23, Claus Wisser embarked on his entrepreneurial journey by founding a company specializing in the cleaning of office buildings. At the outset, he famously advertised for a used typewriter as a gift. With determination and hard work, he began the business as its sole worker, armed with a broom, bucket, and the typewriter.
Under his leadership, the company expanded into what is now known as Wisag, a conglomerate offering services such as cleaning, park maintenance, security, and catering, among others. Wisag grew to employ an impressive 50,000 employees. Claus Wisser’s dedication and vision played a pivotal role in this transformation.
While Wisser initially ventured into textiles, which proved unsuccessful and left him with significant debts, he quickly redirected his focus towards service industries. These included services for industry, administration, airlines, and airports, particularly ground traffic management for airports.
During the 1990s, Claus Wisser began transitioning away from day-to-day operational roles within Wisag. He entrusted the company’s operations to professionals, including his son Michael Wisser, who later became the chairman of the company in 2007. Claus Wisser assumed the role of chairman of the supervisory board, and in 2022, he was honored with the title of honorary chairman of the supervisory board.
Patron of the Arts and Philanthropy
Claus Wisser’s passion for the arts and culture was evident throughout his life. He was a founding member of the Rheingau Musik Festival in 1987, an annual music festival held in Germany. He also served as the chairman of its supporting association. Wisser’s commitment to the arts extended to supporting institutions such as the Städel museum and the Caricatura Museum Frankfurt.
Notably, he initiated a project to transform the Neues Kloster Johannisberg into a hotel and event location, contributing to the preservation and revitalization of cultural heritage.
In 2015, marking 50 years of Wisag, Claus Wisser and his son established the KiWIS foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to supporting children’s causes and initiatives.
Claus Wisser’s engagement in public life extended beyond his business and philanthropic endeavors. He was twice appointed as a member of the Federal Convention, which plays a crucial role in electing the German President. His participation in 1999 and 2017 highlighted his commitment to civic duty and governance.
Passing and Honors
Claus Wisser passed away on October 4, 2023, at the age of 81, after battling cancer. Throughout his life, he received numerous awards and honors for his exceptional contributions to social engagement, education, music, and the arts. Some of these awards include:
- Georg August Zinn Medal in 2005
- Hessian Order of Merit in 2010
- Ehrenplakette der Stadt Frankfurt am Main in 2013
- ULI Leadership Award in 2015
- Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2022
Claus Wisser’s legacy lives on through his enduring impact on business, arts, culture, and the lives of countless individuals touched by his philanthropy and leadership.