A success story: the history of Bastei Lübbe

»Let us entertain you!«
Stefan Lübbe

What would one day become something great began more than 60 years ago in a tiny room in Bergisch Gladbach ...

In those days, in 1953, Gustav H. Lübbe and his wife Ursula took over the Cologne-based Bastei-Verlag, which had been brought to life four years before by Ilse Tormin, and, , established Bastei-Verlag Gustav H. Lübbe in a windowless garage. The small company, which primarily sold the novel booklets, which were popular at the time, to press wholesalers and railway station book stores in the first few years, grew quickly. With the foundation of the Bastei Lübbe Taschenbuch-Verlag in 1963 and later the Gustav Lübbe Verlag für Hardcover, the great success continued: The series »Der Bergdoktor«, »Jerry Cotton« and »John Sinclair« became successful cult series, and comics such as »Bessy« and »Silberpfeil« also achieved cult status. With glossy editions such as »Die Galerie der großen Maler« or »Neue Entdeckungen in der Archäologie«, Lübbe also published a series of non-fiction books which were even awarded the coveted Ceram Prize. With »Das Goldene Blatt«, the company published one of the first weekly women’s magazines in Germany, and became Europe’s largest puzzle publisher.

In the following years, the number of accomplishments increased. The success also lay in the signing of brilliant authors of novels who, over time, would become guarantors of bestsellers; they included names such as Ken Follett, who enchanted an audience of millions with works such as »Die Nadel«.

Following the death of Gustav Lübbe in 1995, his heirs carried on the tradition of terrific novels with authors such as Dan Brown (»Sakrileg«) whilst at the same time introducing new features, including the foundation of Lübbe Audio in 1996, which would become one of the largest audio book publishers in Germany.

Ten years after the death of his father, Stefan Lübbe acquired all shares from the other family members so that he was finally the sole shareholder of the family business.

In 2008, the publisher began to restructure the publishing group, which was by now under the management of Thomas Schierack. Takeovers of other publishers, new imprints and strategic interests followed. In order to become well-positioned in the children’s and young people’s book sector, the group acquired two publishers: the Frankfurt-based children’s and young people’s book publisher Baumhaus and the renowned Stuttgart-based children’s book publisher Boje.

In 2009/2010, with the relocation of the company headquarters from Bergisch Gladbach to the historical Carlswerk area in Cologne, after 56 years, the publishing group was renamed Bastei Lübbe GmbH & Co. KG. In the same year, the company founded the Bastei Entertainment division, whereby it became the first German publisher to launch a purely digital range (»Digital First«). This also resulted in the first ever web novel with Mario Giordano’s »Apocalypsis«. Bastei Entertainment now supplies 2,600 digital copies of the entire publishing range, which currently comprises 3,600 titles.

However, special content remains a focal point of the publishing house. In 2011, the Cologne-based company therefore acquired the Frankfurt-based Eichborn Verlag, which is renowned for its original, literary and bold titles. In turn, Felix Rudloff, who began as the Head of Publishing at Eichborn, was appointed to the Management Board of Bastei Lübbe, of which Thomas Schierack as the Chairman and Klaus Kluge were already members. 2011 also saw Bastei Lübbe founding the publisher Quadriga, which focuses on current political, economic and business-related topics, in the heart of Berlin.

The publishing group took over PMV Partner Medien Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, a specialist in entertaining puzzle magazines, in 2011, and Hartmut Räder Wohnzubehör GmbH & Co KG, a wholesaler of gifts and home accessories, a year later. 2012 also saw the acquisition of a 50% shareholding in the Solingen-based Präsenta Promotion International GmbH, a full-service agency in the advertising media and gifts sector.

Birgit Lübbe with her husband Stefan Lübbe, who passed away in 2014
© Olivier Favre

2013 was particularly exciting for Bastei Lübbe in many respects. The Cologne-based company began by taking over Family Entertainment.tv GmbH in Erfurt, giving rise to Bastei Media, the division whose responsibilities include the development of in-house digital series formats. The Bastei Lübbe Academy - the first and only school for emerging authors within a publishing firm in Germany - then opened its doors in March. After Bastei Lübbe was able to place a bond on the mid-market with great success in 2011 and thus prove that even financial professionals place their trust in the Cologne-based media firm, Bastei Lübbe GmbH & Co.KG was converted into an Aktiengesellschaft (joint stock company) in August 2013 and floated on the stock market in October 2013. Since then, Bastei Lübbe AG, which is listed in the Prime Standard segment of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, has given investors the opportunity to invest in a leading company within the industry - a company whose profitability has continuously increased in recent years and which is very successful, particularly in the digital sector, with great innovative capacity as well as in-house developments and series that are distributed worldwide.

Stefan Lübbe remained the principal shareholder following the initial public offering, but transferred operational management to the Chairman of the Management Board, Thomas Schierack, and the Management Board members Klaus Kluge, Felix Rudloff and Jörg Plathner, who was appointed to the Management Board as its fourth member. Together they are carrying on the expansion policies of previous years; this was particularly apparent in the new media sector in 2014. In May, Bastei Lübbe acquired a majority stake in one of the largest self-publishing platforms in Germany, the Munich-based BookRix GmbH & Co. KG in Munich, and also in one of the best games developers and publishers in Germany, the Hamburg-based Daedalic Entertainment GmbH. In September, Bastei Lübbe - together with the entertainment studio Imperative Entertainment, which is based in Los Angeles and specialises in a variety of entertainment media - established the promising joint venture Bastei Inc. Bastei Lübbe took over the successful online shopping platform beam-ebooks.de, which specialises in e-books, in the same month.

However, on 13 October 2014, the managers and employees of Bastei Lübbe AG were shown how even such a wonderful success story cannot escape terrible strokes of fate and setbacks: the publisher and principal shareholder Stefan Lübbe died at the age of 57. Stefan Lübbe took what his father Gustav had begun in a windowless garage in 1953 and, with a keen sense of the challenges of the future, developed it into an internationally competitive media concern without compromising the character of a family-led company.

His wife Birgit Lübbe is preserving the family’s interests and the publishing legacy. And that is a tremendous task. After all, Stefan Lübbe’s credo was always: »Let us entertain you.«