Thomas Rabe (manager)

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Thomas Rabe (2017) Thomas Rabe 2017 cropped.jpg
Thomas Rabe (2017)

Thomas Rabe (born August 6, 1965, in Luxembourg) is a German business executive. [1] In 2006, he was appointed to the Bertelsmann executive board, of which he has been chairman and chief executive officer since 2012. [2] [3] Under his leadership, the group has become more international, more digital and more diversified. [4] [5] In particular, he has advanced the business with music rights and the educational division. [6] Additionally, Rabe was appointed chief executive officer of RTL Group in 2019. [7]


Early life and education

Rabe was born in 1965 in Luxembourg and grew up in Brussels, [8] [9] where his father worked as a civil servant in the European Coal and Steel Community from 1968. [10] He attended the European School and as a youth was a bass player in a punk band. [11] After completing his German baccalaureate (Abitur), Rabe studied Business and Economics at the RWTH Aachen and the University of Cologne. [12] After earning a degree in business administration in 1989, he obtained his doctorate in economics, with a doctoral thesis on "Liberalization and Deregulation in the European Single Market for Insurance" in 1995. [13]

In addition to his native language German, Rabe speaks English, French, Dutch and Spanish. [14]


Rabe began his career at the European Commission in Brussels. At the Commission, from 1989 he worked in the Directorate-General for Financial Institutions and Corporate Law. [10] One year later, he joined his supervisor in moving to the law firm Forrester, Norall & Sutton, [15] which today belongs to White & Case. [16] There he managed client accounts from the European Union, the United States and Japan. [15] In 1991, Rabe was employed by the Treuhand agency in Berlin. [17] In this capacity, among other responsibilities, he was in charge of the privatization of the assets of the Ministry for State Security and the National People's Army of the former GDR. [18] In 1993, he was promoted to head of the Controlling Department. [12] Subsequently, Rabe was involved as head of acquisitions at the Beteiligungsgesellschaft Neue Länder investment agency of the Association of German Banks (BdB), [13] in investing DM 400 million in East German companies. [18] After earning his Ph.D., in 1996 Rabe was hired as office head of the CEO of the Luxembourg financial service provider, Cedel International. [15] [18] He held additional positions there before being appointed chief financial officer in 1998. [19] In subsequent years, he prepared the merger of Cedel International with Deutsche Börse Clearing into Clearstream. [18]

In 2000, Rabe joined RTL Group as CFO. [13] Here, he was additionally responsible for strategy and the Luxembourg television and radio business. [20] Five years later, Bertelsmann brought him back to Gütersloh. [21] [22] [23] Rabe was appointed as the group's CFO on January 1, 2006. [24] At the same time, he was responsible for the Bertelsmann Music Group until 2008. [13] Among other activities, Rabe also negotiated the buyback of shares from Groupe Bruxelles Lambert to prevent Bertelsmann from going public. [11] [25] In addition, the group established its own investment fund in Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments. [26] Later, Rabe organized the return of Bertelsmann into the music business. [27] His recruitment of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. as an investor in BMG Rights Management was seen as a key decision for the music company's future development. [1]

Around 2009 Rabe was reportedly considered as future CEO of the ProSiebenSat.1 Media group and of the Franz Haniel & Cie. investment holding, [28] but Rabe ultimately stayed with Bertelsmann. [29] [30]

CEO of Bertelsmann, 2012–present

After Hartmut Ostrowski announced his retirement as chairman and CEO in 2011, [31] Rabe was declared his successor, effective January 1, 2012. [32] [33] With Rabe's appointment, Bertelsmann ushered in a strategy change towards stronger growth. [34] [35] [36] Under his leadership, Bertelsmann experienced increased growth into Brazil, China, and India, and consolidated this development by bundling these activities in the Bertelsmann Investments division. [37] [38] Also, Rabe managed to complete the merger of Penguin Books with Random House to create the world's largest trade book publisher, and the purchase of the remaining shares in Gruner + Jahr. [39] [40] He built the education division into an additional pillar of the business, [41] [42] which today operates as the Bertelsmann Education Group. [43] He consolidated the printing operations into the Bertelsmann Printing Group. [44] Thus, by 2016, he had expanded the number of corporate divisions to eight. [45] [46]

Rabe's contract as chairman and CEO of Bertelsmann's executive board runs until 2021. [47] [48] As CEO of RTL Group, he oversees the company's TV unit; [49] he is a member of the board of directors of Penguin Random House, among others. [50]

Other activities

Corporate boards
Non-profit boards

Personal life

Rabe lives in Gütersloh and Berlin and is married to a neurologist. [55] [56] The couple collects modern art and, in 2015, purchased a Henry van de Velde-designed villa in Tervuren near Brussels. [57]

Rabe is a member of the Catholic fraternity AV Hansea-Berlin zu Köln. [58]

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