Obituaries

Chocolate, Temp Work Billionaire Klaus Jacobs

Klaus Jacobs co-founded the world's largest temp agency.
Klaus Jacobs co-founded the world's largest temp agency. (Paul O'driscoll - Paul O'driscoll/bloomberg News)
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By Thomas Mulier
Bloomberg News
Friday, September 12, 2008

Klaus J. Jacobs, 72, the German-born entrepreneur who co-founded Adecco SA, the world's biggest temporary-employment agency, died Sept. 11 at his home in Kuesnacht, Switzerland, near Zurich. He had cancer.

Mr. Jacobs created Adecco when he merged Adia Interim SA with Ecco SA in 1996. He also played a prominent role in the chocolate industry, selling the Toblerone brand to Philip Morris in 1990 and forming Barry Callebaut AG, now the world's largest producer of bulk chocolate.

The eldest son of a wealthy German coffee merchant, Klaus Johann Jacobs was born in the northern German city of Bremen on Dec. 3, 1936. He graduated from the Academy for International Trade and Business Relations in Hamburg.

He founded his first coffee export company at 22, sold it four years later, then founded another one. He joined his father's business, Johann Jacobs and Co., in 1961 and in 1974 became a member of the senior management board.

In 1982, he merged Jacobs with Swiss chocolate empire Interfood, gaining the Toblerone brand and creating Europe's largest coffee and chocolate manufacturer, renaming it Jacobs Suchard. He made about $2.6 billion by selling the company to Philip Morris.

Mr. Jacobs donated millions of dollars to the World Scout Foundation and the Johann Jacobs Foundation, which promotes youth causes. A ski-touring enthusiast, jogger and former member of the Swiss national dressage team, he also gave generously to a national park association in Austria and to the Zurich Opera House, a favorite haunt.


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