Machinery legend, Helmut Claas passes away

Sad news to kick-off the year. Helmut Claas, long-time managing director, chairman of the supervisory board and chairman of the shareholders’ committee of the Claas group, died yesterday (January 5) at the age of 94.

by Steven Vale

6 Jan 2021

The loss of such a significant personality comes as a great shock to his family and relatives, the 11,000+ employees around the world, the farming press, and the entire agricultural industry.

Helmut was born in 1926 in Harsewinkel. His parents, August and Paula Claas, managed a small agricultural machinery firm with a workforce of around 100. He completed an apprenticeship as a machine fitter after graduating from school.

Practical experience followed in metalworking firms, and after a complementary study of agriculture in Paris, he took over the planning and establishment of a Claas distributor in France (now Claas France). He joined his parents’ family firm in Harsewinkel in 1958 and in 1962 was appointed managing director.

Helmut Claas held the position of chairman of the shareholders’ committee for 25 years. During this time, the concern intensified its international presence in countries beyond Europe.

New production and sales locations were opened in India, the USA, Russia, China and South America. An important strategic milestone was reached in 2003 with the acquisition of the French tractor manufacturer Renault Agriculture.

His special focus was always on developing pioneering products and mass-producing them economically. Notable successes during his reign included the Lexion combine, Jaguar forage harvester and Xerion tractor.

Countless awards followed, including honorary citizenship of his home town of Harsewinkel, and in November 2013, Mr Claas was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Equipment Manufacturers.

Helmut was first and foremost a farmer. He ran a farm in East Anglia and often stayed there with his wife, Erika. He enjoyed keeping in touch with farmers in the neighbourhood and took a keen interest in issues concerning agricultural firms. He also had a passion for hunting.

Today, his daughter, Cathrina Claas-Mühlhäuser, manages the decision-making and development of the Claas Group, who will continue to develop the company as her father would have wished.