A New York Times story this week looks at the efforts by a German consumer-goods conglomerate to confront the Nazi ties of its founding family.
That story has a Portland connection, because the corporation at its center, JAB Holding Company, bought a controlling stake in Stumptown Coffee in 2015.
Stumptown founder Duane Sorenson sold the Portland coffee roaster to the San Francisco-based investment firm TSG Consumer Partners in 2011, as WW first reported. TSG in turn sold its majority stake in Stumptown to Peet's Coffee in 2015. Peet's was already owned by JAB Holding Company, which has been buying coffee brands across the globe.
"For much of the past decade," the Times notes, "JAB has spent billions of dollars becoming a powerhouse in the beverage industry, with a strategy largely built around buying a company, then using it to roll up rivals."
That ownership became newly relevant this spring, when reports emerged about the Reimann family, who founded and still own JAB. In the midst of those reports, the company and family are examining their Nazi past—specifically, the National Socialist activity of Albert Reimann Jr., and his World War II-era romance with Emilie Landecker, who was half Jewish. (Reimann was married to another woman, but he and Landecker had three children, who became heirs to the family fortune.)
"The story of Ms. Landecker, whose Jewish father was murdered by the Nazis, and Mr. Reimann, whose fervent Nazism and abuse of forced laborers did not stop his family from attaining colossal wealth after the war, is a tale of death and devotion and human contradictions," the June 14 Times story says. "It is also a tale of modern-day corporate atonement."
The Times story looks at the complex ramifications of the family history on the company's reputation—which doesn't sit easily with what the Times calls "JAB's portfolio of sunny coffee-and-doughnut brands in the United States." The story also examines the efforts by JAB and the Reimann heirs to examine and make reparations for company wrongdoing, including by donating millions to groups aiding former forced laborers.
Asked by WW for comment, Stumptown pointed to those efforts.
"When the research revealed Third Reich atrocities," says Stumptown Coffee public relations director Samantha Chalice, "the family, none of whom were born until well after World War II, were transparent about the discovery and expressed deep shame."
Here is the full statement from Chalice on behalf of Stumptown:
"We are aware of the recent media coverage related to the Reimann family, who are the largest shareholders in JAB, the controlling shareholder of Stumptown.
"As you may have read, they commissioned well-known German historian, Paul Erker, to study their ancestors' history. When the research revealed Third Reich atrocities, the family, none of whom were born until well after World War II, were transparent about the discovery and expressed deep shame.
"They have publicly committed to making restitutions and have recently announced that they will donate $30 million dollars annually to the Alfred Landecker Foundation, which aims to honor the memory of Third Reich victims and educate on the impact of intolerance and bigotry.
"The Foundation's work is also firmly rooted in the lessons we must learn from the collapse of European civilization in World War II, to ensure that we live in a society where this can never be repeated."