Ralf Bohle, founder of Ralf Bohle GmbH and the tire brand Schwalbe, passed away Sunday, 25 April, in Bergneustadt, Germany at the age of 75.
In his five decades as an entrepreneur, Ralf Bohle wore many hats: as a bicycle spokesman, he campaigned for the bicycle as a means of transport. As an Asia manufacturing expert, he established lifelong business partnerships. As the founder of the Schwalbe brand, he innovated. In running Schwalbe gave his employees a secure workplace that was said to be like a family.
“Everything that constitutes the Bohle Group with the Schwalbe brand today exists due to his efforts, his ideas and his vision,” said Bohle’s son, Frank, who manages Schwalbe’s board of directors in a press-release.
The premature death of Ralf Bohle’s own father in 1955 forced him to take over the family business at just twenty-years-old. The Bohle family had produced low-cost transport bicycles and accompanying parts since 1906. Under the leadership of Ralf Bohle, the company began exporting his family’s German bicycles, parts and motorcycles all over the world.
German manufacturing by his company would succumb to the market in 1976, but Bohle had anticipated a shift to Asia. He had already established a partnership with an Asian family who manufactured bicycle tires in South Korea. This served as the birth of the Schwalbe tire brand. From 1973 onwards, he promoted his partnership with two family-owned companies in spite of the vast distance that separates them. The German side of the business focused on development, marketing and distribution, while his Korean partners handled production.
In 1999, Bohle invited his son, Frank and son-in-law, Holger Jahn, to join Schwalbe’s board of directors. Starting in 2002 the three have shared the management of the brand. Frank Bohle serves as the director of the Board and responsible for marketing and distribution, son-in-law Holger Jahn is responsible for development and technology. Andreas Grothe handles the brand’s finance.
“You have not only led the way for your employees but, through your kind, down-to-earth and wise manner, you have created a great role model for us,” said Jürgen Krischke, Schwalbe’s personnel manager, expressing a final farewell on behalf of Schwalbe employees. “We could always rely on your willingness to listen and to help. You are and remain our boss – a very special type of boss.”