Thomas Middelhoff

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Middelhoff in 2008

Thomas Middelhoff (born May 11, 1953) is a German corporate manager. He was on the board of directors of Bertelsmann from 1990–2002, being CEO from 1998. From 2004 to 1 March 2009, Middelhoff was chairman of the supervisory board of Arcandor (previously KarstadtQuelle AG), and CEO of the company.[1]


Thomas Middelhoff was born in Düsseldorf, Germany, the son of a textile businessman. He studied business at the University of Münster and received his doctorate at the Institute for Marketing under the supervision of Heribert Meffert. While at university, he was already working in his father's textile business. After graduating he was given a high post in the company.

Bertelsmann (1986 - 2002)[edit]

In 1986 he moved to Bertelsmann, a multinational media corporation based in Germany, as assistant manager of the graphic firm in Gütersloh. In 1990, he became a member of the board of directors of Bertelsmann.

Middelhoff recognized the potential of the new digital media early. He made small investments into Firma Pixelpark in Berlin among others, on Bertelsmann's behalf. As an early believer in the rapid development of the Internet, he suggested a large financial participation of Bertelsmann in America Online (AOL) when it was still a young company, and created the joint venture AOL Europe, with a financial holding of $50 million for a 5% stake.[2] This investment was extremely successful and would later influence Middelhoff's ascent in the company to chairman of the board. In May 1995, he became a member of the governing board of AOL, and during his time in this position Middelhoff became a "close friend" of AOL's founder, Steve Case.

In 1995, Bertelsmann and AOL started the joint venture AOL Germany. From November 1998 to July 2002, Middelhoff was the CEO of Bertelsmann. During this time it increased its internet activities by starting the online media portal BOL (Bertelsmann Online), which was sold to in 2002. But Bertelsmann soon stepped back from these online engagements, selling its shares of AOL-Europe back to Time Warner, which had merged with AOL in 2001. In January 2000 Middelhoff declined a directorship at AOL and resigned from the supervisory board of the corporation.

Subsequent career[edit]

Beginning in 2003, Middelhoff coordinated the European affairs of the holding company Investcorp. The German businesses of the corporation included Gerresheimer Glas (de) and Callahan. After APCOA Parking was taken over by Investcorp in 2004, he was appointed to its supervisory board.

Since 2003 Middelhoff has also been a member of the board of The New York Times Company responsible for the compensation committee. As a confidant of Madeleine Schickedanz, he became the chairman of KarstadtQuelle AG's supervisory board in June 2004 and its CEO in May 2005. KarstadtQuelle was renamed Arcandor in 2007.

Middelhoff was removed from his position as CEO of Arcandor and Thomas Cook Group in March 2009, following a significant decrease in Arcandor's share prices since he had taken the position in 2005. He was replaced by Karl-Gerhard Eick, the former deputy chairman of Deutsche Telekom AG.[citation needed] Three months later, German justice minister Brigitte Zypries announced an investigation into alleged fraud on Middelhoff's part, following allegations of inflated prices for lease agreements involving a firm in which he and his wife were shareholders.[3] Arcandor declared bankruptcy in the following week,[4] and parts of the company were sold to Nicolas Berggruen to save them from insolvency.[citation needed] In 2014, Middelhoff was convicted on criminal charges related to his activities while head of Arcandor; he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment.[5]

In 2010 Middelhoff was cofounder and one of three Managing Partners (including Gary S. Long and Ibrahim Gharghour) of Pulse Capital Partners LLC based in New York City.

Middelhoff has five children and lives with his family in Bielefeld.


  1. ^ Announcement of replacement with Eick
  2. ^ "Bertelsmann: A New Net Powerhouse?". 
  3. ^ Der Spiegel, 6 June 2009, (in German) Immobiliendeals bringen Ex-Arcandor-Chef in Bedrängnis
  4. ^ "BBC NEWS - Business - Germany's Arcandor in bankruptcy". 
  5. ^ SPIEGEL ONLINE, Hamburg, Germany (14 November 2014). "Middelhoff zu drei Jahren Gefängnis verurteilt". SPIEGEL ONLINE. 

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