Bertelsmann Foundation

Bertelsmann Stiftung
Motto Inspiring People. Shaping the Future.
Formation February 8, 1979 (1979-02-08)
Founder Reinhard Mohn
Type Foundation
Headquarters Gütersloh, Germany
Area served
United States
Owner the Mohn family
60.3 million (2010)
328 (2013)
Headquarters of the Bertelsmann Foundation (Gütersloh, 2007)

The Bertelsmann Foundation (German: Bertelsmann Stiftung) is the largest[1][2] private operating non-profit foundation in Germany, created in 1977 by Reinhard Mohn. As of 2013, the Bertelsmann Foundation holds 77.4 percent of Bertelsmann, the German multinational mass media corporation.[3]


For decades, Reinhard Mohn authored numerous books on corporate social responsibility.[4] In 1977, he started the Bertelsmann Foundation to promote alternative forms of social, political and economic order. In 1993, he transferred 69 percent of his shares in Bertelsmann AG to the foundation, making it the media enterprise’s biggest shareholder.[5] Following the will of Mohn, the foundation has been dedicated to European unity[6] and Transatlantic cooperation since its inception.


The Bertelsmann Foundation is active in political, social, economic, educational, cultural and health-related issues. It does not provide grants, scholarships or project funding to others, but focuses on researching, publishing and stimulating public debate on its topics. It is active worldwide and has since inception spent around €868 million on nonprofit projects. When Bertelsmann's dividend payment to the foundation fell by a third to about €63 million in 2003, the Bertelsmann Foundation’s budget was drastically cut by €7 million ($8.1 million) from €72 million the following year.[7] The total budget for the 2010 fiscal year was €60.3 million, according to the foundation's annual report.[8]

The Bertelsmann Foundation is based in Gütersloh, with offices in Berlin, Brussels, and Barcelona. In order to open an office in Washington D.C., the foundation created a legally independent foundation, the Bertelsmann Foundation North America, in 2008.[9]

Reinhard Mohn Prize

In awarding the annual Reinhard Mohn Prize, the Bertelsmann Foundation carries out an international search to identify innovative ideas and exemplary solutions that address political and social issues. From 1988 to 2008 the prize was named for Carl Bertelsmann, founder of the Bertelsmann. Past winners have included Kofi Annan, the City of Recife, the Citizenship Foundation, and the Hilti Corporation, among others. Prior to Reinhard Mohn's death in 2009, the prize was known as the Carl Bertelsmann Prize.

Transformation Index (BTI)

Updated every two years, the Transformation Index BTI provides a ranking with quantitative scores for the performance of 128 developing and transition countries. The index measures the current state of democracy and market economy in a given country, its evolution over the past two years and the quality of governance.

Sustainable Governance Indicators (SGI)

First published in 2009, the Sustainable Governance Indicators (SGI) analyze and compare the need for reform in OECD member countries, as well as each country's ability to respond to current social and political challenges. The project is designed to create a comprehensive data pool on government-related activities in the countries considered the world's most developed free-market democracies. The SGI are updated every two or three years.

Social Justice Index

In a much-discussed Bertelsmann Foundation study on social justice released in 2011,[10] the United States came in dead last among the rich countries, ahead of only Greece, Chile, Mexico and Turkey.[11]

Bertelsmann Foundation-Financial Times Conference

The Bertelsmann Foundation-Financial Times Conference, an annual forum on the global economy, has been held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. since 2009.[12] Past speakers have included Christine Lagarde, Paul Volcker, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Carly Fiorina, Timothy Geithner, Pascal Lamy, Pierre Moscovici, Wolfgang Schäuble, George Soros, Ursula von der Leyen, and Robert Zoellick.

International Non-Profit Credit Rating Agency

In 2012, as a consequence of the 2008 financial crisis, the Bertelsmann Foundation proposed a so-called International Non-Profit Credit Rating Agency (Incra). The proposal was an attempt to show how a non-profit credit rating agency could be structured without the potential conflicts of interest the commercial agencies face.[13]


While the Bertelsmann Foundation’s activities are considered as consistent with scientific standards, the organization has in the past been criticized by left-leaning groups for its engagement in the political field. The criticism focuses specially on the areas of education and labor, where the foundation allegedly promoted neoliberal ideas such as an increase of competition in education and research and for the introduction of tuition fees to the German university system.[14][15] The foundation has been accused of channeling their concepts into reforms of public universities in order to eliminate e.g. free access to education and academic autonomy.[16]

Executive Board

Notable people


  1. Foundation governance (from the official Bertelsmann Foundation website)
  2. Mark Landler (October 8, 2002), Bertelsmann Offers Regret for Its Nazi-Era Conduct New York Times.
  3. Chris Tryhorn (May 25, 2006), Bertelsmann agrees £3bn buyback deal The Guardian.
  4. Matthew Karnitschnig (December 23, 2002), At Bertelsmann, Past Links To Nazis Led to a Struggle Wall Street Journal.
  5. Christian Vits and Claudia Rach (October 5, 2009), Reinhard Mohn, Postwar Bertelsmann AG Founder, Dies Bloomberg.
  6. Flora Lewis (October 20, 1990), Europe Hesitates New York Times.
  7. Bertelsmann Foundation to Cut 2004 Budget by 9.7%, Focus Says Bloomberg, July 27, 2003.
  8. Facts and figures (from the official Bertelsmann Foundation website, which apparently uses Session IDs in the URL, so links might not work.)
  9. Bertelsmann Stiftung opens an office in the United States Bertelsmann Stiftung, press release of April 15, 2008.
  10. Scales of justice The Economist, January 11, 2011.
  11. Jorge Castañeda Gutman (December 10, 2011), What Latin America Can Teach Us New York Times.
  12. Stephen Foley (April 14, 2013), Bertelsmann Foundation disputes US rating Financial Times.
  13. Jack Ewing and David Jolly (November 20, 2012), Newcomer to Ratings Game Gives France a Dim View ‘’New York Times’’.
  14. Thomas Barth: Ideologieproduktion für den Profit, in: junge Welt, 01.08.2006, p 10 (german)
  15. The close cooperation with the Centrum für Hochschulentwicklung (CHE) has been analyzed by Kyrosch Alidusti from Bund demokratischer WissenschaftlerInnen in a German student magazine (studis-online): Wie das Centrum für Hochschulentwicklung Politik an Hochschulen macht (german)
  16. Social Times: "Standort-Check ist neoliberal" - Bürgerrechtler kritisieren Bertelsmann Stiftung, see online Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. (german)

External links

Coordinates: 51°54′30″N 8°25′09″E / 51.90833°N 8.41917°E / 51.90833; 8.41917

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