Braun (company)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Braun GmbH (commonly pronounced as "braun" in English), formerly Braun AG, is a German consumer products company based in Kronberg. From 1984 until 2005, Braun was a wholly owned subsidiary of The Gillette Company, which had purchased a controlling interest in the company in 1967. Braun is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Procter & Gamble, which acquired Gillette in 2005. On 16 April 2012, De'Longhi bought perpetual rights to manufacture Braun branded products from Procter & Gamble in the small appliance segment. Procter & Gamble will continue to own the Braun brand.


Max Braun, a mechanical engineer, established a small engineering shop in Frankfurt am Main in 1921. In 1923 he began producing components for radio sets. In 1928 the company had grown to such an extent, partly due to the use of certain plastic materials, that it moved to new premises on Idsteiner Strasse.

Eight years after he started his shop, Max Braun began to manufacture entire radio sets in 1929. Soon after, Braun became one of Germany's leading radio manufacturers. This development continued with the launch of one of the first combined radio and record players in 1932.

In 1935, the Braun brand was introduced, and the familiar logotype with the raised "A" took form. At the 1937 World's Fair in Paris, Max Braun received the award For special achievements in phonography. During World War II, Braun was compelled to more or less abandon products for the civilian sector. In 1944, the Frankfurt factories were almost entirely destroyed and Max Braun began to rebuild his company with 150 employees.

After the war, Braun continued to produce state-of-the art radios and audio equipment, and soon became well known for its "high-fidelity" audio and record players, including the famous SK line. In 1954, the company also began producing film slide projectors, a mainstay of its business for the next forty years. By 1956, Braun was marketing the first fully automatic tray film slide projector, the PA 1. Braun AG slide projectors all utilized a linear or straight tray as opposed to a carousel-type design, which allowed the projector to remain small and compact.

The 1950s also marked the beginning of the product that Braun is most known for today: the electric shaver. The S 50 was the first electric shaver from Braun. The shaver was designed in 1938, but World War II delayed its introduction until 1951. It featured an oscillating cutter block with a very thin, yet very stable steel-foil mounted above it. This principle is still used in Braun's shavers of today.

In 1962, Braun became Braun AG, a publicly traded company. In 1963, the company started distributing microphones by U.S. manufacturer Shure in Germany. Also during the 1960s, Braun created the Rams-designed T3 pocket radio. By this time, Braun's film slide projectors were featuring high-quality optics and all-metal construction combined with sleek functionalist styling, and competed with higher-end Eastman Kodak and Leitz products in the global market. In 1967, a majority share of the company was acquired by the Boston, Massachusetts-based conglomerate Gillette Group.

By the 1970s, Braun had begun to focus on home consumer appliances, including shavers, coffee makers, razors, clocks, and radios. The company's line of film slide projectors and hi-fi products was discontinued. In 1998, Braun AG was transformed into a privately held company.

In 1981, the company's audio and hi-fidelity division, which grew out of Braun's former core business of radios, turntables, and hi-fidelity audio products, was spun off into Braun Electronic GmbH, a legally independent Gillette subsidiary. Braun Electronic GmbH put out its last audio-fi set in 1990 before the business was discontinued. Also in the early 1980s, Braun sold its photographic and slide projector division to Robert Bosch GmbH.

In 1982, Gillette Group moved to integrate Braun with the parent company by taking full control over its operations. In 1984, Braun ceased the production of cigarette lighters. That same year, Braun became a wholly owned subsidiary of Gillette.

By the mid-1990s, Braun held a leading position among the world's home appliance manufacturers, but profitability concerns began to surface. Many of Braun's competitors closely imitated Braun designs and had them produced in low-cost labor countries at lower costs. The litigation commenced by the company to reverse the sales losses and damage to its product image cost Braun substantial amounts of money.

In 1998, Gillette decided to transform Braun AG into a private company before it bought back a 19.9 percent share in its subsidiary The Gillette Company Inc., which Braun had acquired in 1988. The following year, Braun's sales organization was merged with those of Gillette's other business divisions to cut costs. At the end of the 1990s, Braun and Gillette suffered losses in several areas. Looking for ways to return to profitability, Gillette considering the disposal of some of Braun's less profitable divisions, such as kitchen appliances and thermometers, but abandoned the idea a few months later when no buyers were found. Braun's sales in those areas began to recover in 2000.

Gillette was acquired by Procter & Gamble ("P&G") in 2005, making Braun a wholly owned subsidiary of P&G. In early 2008, P&G discontinued sales of Braun appliances, except shavers and electric toothbrushes, in the North American market. In Europe, however, Braun keeps selling all its core categories.

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