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06/28/2018 - Office furniture visionary Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin celebrates his 80th birthday

Courage, hard work and an innovative spirit: These are the key pillars on which Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin’s impressive life’s work has been built. The founder of the internationally successful Dauphin group of companies will turn 80 on 4 July 2018.

Offenhausen, July 2018. “We are a performance-driven community based on people showing personal initiative and mutual appreciation.” With this modern corporate philosophy, Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin was well ahead of his time when he founded his office seating factory in 1968. The passionate entrepreneur and creative inventor remained true to this guiding creed even in a market which is shaped by economic fluctuations. He has been successful: Today he employs around 740 workers around the world and, with 23 sales and production companies in Germany and abroad, he owns one of the leading office furniture companies in Europe, an exclusive home collection, a large collection of vintage cars, a sought-after location for events, and a flourishing vineyard in South Africa where internationally award-winning wines are produced and marketed.

Born in Nuremberg in 1938, after undergoing a commercial apprenticeship from 1960 Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin gained experience as a commercial employee. Working as a business consultant, he carried out an analysis of the potential of the German market on behalf of the English office chair manufacturer Evertaut. As he, in contrast to his employer, was convinced about the potential for success in Germany, in 1968 he purchased the German subsidiary at the age of just 30 and made the bold leap of setting himself up in business with the import, assembly and distribution of the English office chairs. Initially the trained businessman travelled around the country with his suitcase and chair and sold his products. The first major order came in 1971 from the government of North Rhine-Westphalia, which ordered more than 25,000 chairs for the regional finance offices and higher regional courts.

Just two years later, he made the breakthrough with a clever design of his own, a swivel chair made from conically pluggable individual parts which could be packaged up so as to save space and shipped economically. This created the ideal conditions for the export business. More than 84 patents followed, including the first synchronised mechanism for office chairs – which heralded the start of dynamic seating.

His wife and partner Elke Dauphin worked with him over all these years to successfully build up the company, and did so with all her passion, heart and soul. This has remained part of the company’s culture to the present day and continues to be embraced by daughter Antje Dauphin as the joint managing director and the whole team.

In the 1990s, the acquisition of suitable companies such as Bosse, Trendoffice and Züco saw the company evolve to become a supplier of complete office solutions. With the establishment of the Dauphin HumanDesign Group in 2002 and the exclusive Dauphin Home collection in 2010, the Dauphin group of companies has now developed into an internationally successful complete provider of functional furnishing solutions for modern working and living environments. The focus of Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin is always on achieving the perfect blend of ergonomics and design.

But the urbane entrepreneur is not just fascinated by office chairs or office furniture. Among other things, Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin together with his wife Elke, who died in 2016, has been a passionate collector of vintage cars. Over more than 30 years, the couple amassed a historical collection of around 160 vintage cars and 240 nostalgic motorbikes. In his spare time, the energetic entrepreneur and his family have also participated in various vintage car races such as the “Mille Miglia”, the “Tour Auto” and the “Gaisberg Race”. In order to accommodate the impressive collection in stylish surroundings and make it available to a wider public, in 1999 the Dauphin family purchased a former factory hall in Hersbruck and worked until 2004 to transform it into “Dauphin Speed Event”, a location for events over an area of some 18,000 m2 featuring an event hall and parkland for all kinds of events for up to 500 people in a sophisticated ambience.

In addition, Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin owns a historic vineyard (approx. 300 hectares) on the cape in South Africa which the married couple purchased on one of their numerous business trips. Today wine, fruits, herbs and olives are grown and marketed very successfully around the world under the name “Allée Bleue”. The Allée Bleue Estate itself is a romantic setting for large-scale celebrations for up to 400 people.

In 2014, Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin was presented with the “Bavarian Founder Award” in recognition of his life’s work as an entrepreneur, inventor and visionary.

The charismatic businessman stepped back from active daily business operations in 2016. He handed over responsibility to the Chairman of the Board of directors, Dr. Bernhard Kallup, who is overseeing the transformation from a simple family business, together with the managing partner Antje Dauphin, into a company run by the management in family hands. The founder of the Dauphin company took over the role of Chairman of the Shareholder Committee and is still involved in an advisory capacity. In December 2016, his wife Elke Dauphin, who had played a crucial role in shaping the company’s destiny and to whom Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin was married for over 50 years, died at the age of 74 after a long and serious illness.

After an active career spanning more than 50 years, Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin, who advocated modern management strategies such as outsourcing and lean production back in the 1970s and still captivates people today with his exceptional entrepreneurial personality, can reflect on an eventful (professional) life and a successful company history.