He came to Espelkamp 66 years ago on 1 December, has been an independent entrepreneur for a good 65 years – and looks back on a unique legacy.
Espelkamp - Paul Gauselmann doesn’t believe in luck. He believes in opportunities that are waiting to be recognised, correctly assessed and seized. Something he has succeeded in doing particularly well throughout his life. The creation of almost 15,000 jobs and an internationally successful corporate group with total annual sales revenues of over 3.5 billion euros stand for a unique life’s work that the founder and Gauselmann Group Chairman continues to hone. On 26 August, Paul Gauselmann celebrated his 88th birthday and at the same time looks back on 65 years of entrepreneurial independence – a decision he took on 25 May 1957.
Born in 1934 near Münster (Westphalia), Paul Gauselmann’s success story began with an apprenticeship as a telecommunications inspector. After seven years as an employee, he ventured into part-time self-employment in 1957 installing jukeboxes. This marked the birth of the Gauselmann Group and culminated in 1964 in full business independence. Precisely the years spent as an employee would shape the entrepreneur for the rest of his life. He worked for eight years as a development technician in the vending machine industry, for four of them as head of development. In this function, he had constant insight into the areas of manufacturing and sales. He received great support from his senior boss Wilhelm Harting, for whom vending machines were a true affair of the heart until his premature death in 1962. This time had shown Paul Gauselmann that the most important resource for any company are its employees and that their satisfaction depends to a large extent on showing appreciation. Thus, it’s not unusual to find him in the office corridors taking the time for an interested chat with an employee, personally attending the annual meeting of the Merkur Seniors or entering into dialogue with trainees and apprentices at the traditional entrepreneurial talk.
While Paul Gauselmann’s life’s work is unparalleled, his success story is representative of a post-war Germany with new business opportunities that made such advancements possible and thus additionally contributed to the growth of social prosperity. The prerequisites for this were outstanding ideas, relentless drive and staying power. All qualities that Paul Gauselmann has in spades and that became apparent among other things with the founding of the first Spielothek in 1974. “I had the idea to turn the few box rooms of the former gambling hall into a gaming venue in the style of a three- or four-star hotel – with carpeting and hydroculture. A super idea as it turned out, and one that the whole industry jumped at,” says the company patriarch.
Just three years later, he marked the next milestone and conquered the German market with his first proprietary slot machine, in those days without electronics. The “Merkur B” eclipsed all competing products with more gaming fun and immediately doubled the enjoyment factor and cash results of the machines of the market leaders at the time. “I knew that this was the beginning of a new era,” Paul Gauselmann recalls.
When he predicted market leadership to his wife Karin in 1975, she merely replied, “Oh my”. The company achieved this market position in 1985 with a market share in excess of 50 per cent and has been able to defend it to this day because, in addition to focusing on gamers’ needs, it has always responded promptly to technical innovations and the changing political framework. Many development departments from Australia to the USA with a total of around 1,000 employees are exemplary proof that outstanding ideas continue to be the basis of success. In this, the group is very much in the tradition of its founder, who in his lifetime has registered some 300 patents and whose inventive spirit and entrepreneurial foresight have stood out time and again.
This drive and dedication still characterise Paul Gauselmann to this day – even though he has now prescribed himself a reduced four-day week. Relying on a long-standing and experienced management team, he has both advanced the group’s internationalisation and continuously expanded activities in the casino segment. Strategic skill and sound business judgement in good times have made it possible to compensate for the restrictions in the German home market and to preserve all 15,000 jobs even during a historic crisis situation such as the pandemic. Thanks to his permanent pursuit of excellence as well as his irrepressible will, Paul Gauselmann this year celebrated his 65th anniversary as an entrepreneur. The company founder thus looks back on a 65-year career with the Gauselmann Group, making him the group’s longest serving employee. In more than six decades, he has created an entertainment giant that enjoys success with its own games and machines, operates gaming venues across Europe and, in addition to land-based casinos and casinos on cruise ships, also has new online gaming and sports betting future markets in its portfolio. The Merkur brand with the laughing sun has become synonymous with the enjoyment of gaming. To the delight of its founder, the sales company adp is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Paul Gauselmann has created a corporate empire while at the same time looking out for his fellow citizens. With heart and soul, he is committed to supporting projects and initiatives in the field of preventive health care in the district These include the medical robot-assisted surgery lighthouse project, which the Paul Gauselmann together with his wife Karin have financed with the acquisition of the “da Vinci X” surgical robot for the Lübbecke site. Paul Gauselmann is also keen to share the company’s success with people in the Mühlenkreis district at grass roots level. Every year, the Paul and Karin Gauselmann Foundation provides financial support to hundreds of social and cultural projects, initiatives, clubs, groups and private individuals in the region surrounding the company’s headquarters. To mark his 88th birthday, which he again celebrated this year in the company of his family and many friends, the company chairman once again wished for a gift that will benefit the community as a whole. In recognition of his outstanding commitment, he was awarded the First Class Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany as well honorary citizenship of the towns of Espelkamp and Lübbecke. His decades-long dedication to the vending machine industry for 53 years since 1966, including 38 years as Chairman of the German Amusement and Vending Machine Industry Association (VDAI), was honoured with the VDAI honorary presidency.
The successful entrepreneur is backed by a strong family: “Whether on the Management Board, the Supervisory Board or within the context of the Foundation – my family is both privately and professionally the most important pillar in my life,” Paul Gauselmann stresses. “What’s more, my four sons have each in their own field contributed significantly to the present success of the Gauselmann Group. I would like to say a very special thank you to my wife Karin, who has encouraged and stood by me for 55 years.” For all his extraordinary success, Paul Gauselmann has always remained a down-to-earth person with strong ties to his home region, who also finds relaxation in tennis. At his local Espelkamp-Mittwald (TVE) tennis club, he is active as a sponsor, honorary chairman and team player. In his family circle – with his four sons and daughters-in-law, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren – whether doing sports or in nature, he finds strength to master the challenges with energy and optimism even at this proud age. Online gaming is set to change the industry – and Paul Gauselmann has long had ideas for ensuring the Gauselmann Group’s success in this environment, too.