Helmut Wagner, the founder of Rehau Verwaltungszentrale AG, died Jan. 24. He was 95.
Wagner began the business, which is now the holding company of Rehau Group, in 1948 with three employees and one extruder in the German town of Rehau. They began by producing shoe welting, garden hoses and automotive components.
The product line kept growing. Within 10 years, Rehau also was extruding vinyl windows and magnetic gasket systems for refrigerator doors.
Over the decades, the company added production for car bumpers, cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) pipe radiant floor heating, medical tubing and components, unplasticized PVC windows, polypropylene sewer pipes, a brand of PEX pipe called PEXa for geothermal systems, and more.
Today, the privately held company has some 20,000 employees at more than 170 sites generating annual sales of about $4 billion (3.3 billion euros) in 2019.
Although he turned over control of the company to his sons in 2000, Helmut Wagner was "highly committed to the end," according to Jobst Wagner, a son who is the president of the Rehau Group supervisory board.
Another son, Veit Wagner, is vice president. CEO William Christensen leads day-to-day operations.
Jobst Wagner said news of his father's death has moved Rehau employees around the world.
"The great sympathy for the passing of our father comes from many regions of the world. We are very touched by this as a family," Jobst Wagner said in a news release. "It shows the great legacy that Helmut Wagner has left behind as one of the pioneers of modern industry, a courageous creator and unwavering visionary. We will honor the memory of Helmut Wagner by resolutely continuing his impressive work. His entrepreneurial spirit will continue to guide us."
Christensen pointed to how far Rehau has come since its founding. The company has five divisions — automotive, building, windows, furniture and industrial — that cover a wide range of products.
"We owe this in particular to the vision and courage of Helmut Wagner," Christensen said in the statement. "In deep mourning and sincere gratitude for the achievements of our founder, the Rehau family is especially united in these days."