Pillar of Germany’s Economic Miracle Founder of Otto Mail Order Chain Dies
Source: Spiegel Germany.
In this 2001 photo, Werner Otto stands in front of a Potsdam palace whose restoration he helped to fund.
As a young man, Werner Otto dreamt of becoming a novelist. Instead he sold cigarettes and shoes, laying the cornerstone for what would become the world’s largest mail-order company. Now, one of the last living legends of Germany’s 1950s economic miracle has passed away at age 102. Werner Otto’s admirers called him the “Man of the Century,” the kind of man whose life is filled with founding myths and legends. The story of one of Germany’s most successful businessmen began in 1949 when, at the age of 40, a penniless war refugee put together a 14-page brochure. He glued photos in it himself. It was the first catalogue ever produced by Werner Otto, and he distributed 300 hand-bound copies to customers. The makeshift catalogue was the cornerstone of what would eventually become a global business.