The long-time managing director of the Claas Group, Helmut Claas, has passed away at the age of 94, the machinery company said in a statement.
Claas, the son of the business’ founder August Class, joined the family firm in 1958 and was made managing director in 1962. In 1996, as part of the restructuring of the firm into a joint-stock company, he changed from the role of managing director to the position of chairperson of both the supervisory board and the shareholders’ committee.
On his passing, tributes to Claas were led by JCB chairman Lord Bamford, who hailed him as one of the world’s best-known pioneers of agricultural machinery.
“Helmut Claas has been a very important figure in the agricultural machinery business for more than six decades. A passionate farmer and engineer, the worldwide agricultural industry is going to miss him tremendously, but we can take some comfort in the fact he has left the business in a very strong position and in the very capable hands of his daughter Cathrina. From one family business to another, I extend my deepest sympathy to Cathrina and all the Claas family,” Anthony Bamford said.
Helmut Claas oversaw the development of the Lexion combine harvester, as well as the development of the Jaguar forage harvester and the Xerion tractor. Under him, the company acquired Renault Agriculture in France in the early 2000s, and further expanded its international presence.
He was awarded honorary degrees by universities in several countries, and in 2009 was made a knight of the French Legion of Honour, the highest honour given by the French government, for advancing Franco-German cooperation.
In 2013 he was made a member of the American Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) ‘Hall of Fame’ and was awarded a prestigious medal by the German Institute of Inventions in 2017.
His daughter, Catherina Claas-Muhlhauser, now manages the Claas Group.