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Peter Schaufler, Bitzer CEO, dies

Peter Schaufler: a giant of the refrigeration industry

GERMANY: The air conditioning and refrigeration industry has been saddened by the news of the passing of Bitzer CEO and owner Peter Schaufler.

A giant of the refrigeration industry who transformed the German company into becoming the largest independent refrigeration compressor manufacturer in the world,  Peter Schaufler passed away unexpectedly at the weekend in Salzburg. He was 74.

Originally founded in 1934 by Martin Bitzer, the company was acquired by Peter Schaufler’s father, Ulrich, in 1934. Peter took over in 1979, following his father’s death.

At that time, the company had 270 employees and boasted sales of DM30m (around €15m). Peter gave the company an international focus, turning the company into a global player and a driver of innovation for the entire refrigeration and air conditioning sector. Bitzer now counts on 3,400 employees in more than 90 countries and turnover of €657m, making it 50 times the size it was when he took the helm.

In a statement announcing his death, the company said: “His decisions demonstrated entrepreneurial courage at all times. For example, he founded a joint venture with a Chinese company in Beijing back in 1994. The Peter Schaufler era was characterised by values such as hard work, ingenuity and quality, which are now firmly rooted in the Bitzer corporate culture. His forward-looking business policy and his willingness to rise to challenges allowed him to conquer new markets, and to successfully introduce compressor technologies to the market, such as screw compressors in 1983 and scroll compressors in 2002.”

His enthusiasm was also felt outside of Bitzer. In 2005 he founded the Schaufler Foundation with the aim of bringing together entrepreneurship, science, research and art. The Schaufler Foundation is the main sponsor of the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences’ Valerius Füner Prize, which recognises the outstanding achievements of mechanical engineering students in the areas of refrigeration, air conditioning and environmental technology. It also supports dedicated students at the University of Dresden, the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences via the German government’s Deutschlandstipendium (Germany Scholarship).

He was also keen to see the advancement of scientific research in the field of refrigeration and air conditioning technology, creating the Bitzer Chair of Refrigeration, Cryogenics and Compressor Technology at the TU Dresden in 2007. He and his wife Christiane Schaufler-Münch also made generous donations to welfare institutions and gave the public access to their extensive art collection comprising more than 3,000 pieces at the Schauwerk Sindelfingen museum and art gallery. Since then, the museum has earned itself a reputation, both locally and internationally, for putting on top-calibre exhibitions.

In 2010 Peter Schaufler was awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his contributions to the fields of culture and science.

He received many awards for his business successes and services to society, including the 2014 Gründerpreis Baden-Württemberg for company founders, in recognition of his life’s work, which was presented by the region’s Minister for Economic Affairs Dr Nils Schmid.

The family held a quiet funeral.

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