Author image

Dr. Friedhelm Haak

Boekzetelerfehn in Ostfriesland
in 1945

Nationality: German
Alma Mater: Free University of Berlin, MA (Dipl. Kfm.) with a focus on electronic data processing and operations research.
Free University of Berlin (Otto Suhr Institute), PhD (Dr. rer. pol.) in Political Science,
Occupation: Former CEO of the Madsack Publishing Group
Known for: Changing the publishing approach from analogue to electronic in Verlagsgesellschaft Madsack (Madsack Publishing House) and Germany’s media industry Dr. Friedhelm Haak is a German newspaper publisher, media entrepreneur and consultant. He is the director of Haak & Compagnie. He worked for the Verlagsgesellschaft Madsack (Madsack Publishing House) from 1983 to 2013. From 1995 to 2006 he was chairman of the management board and from 2006 until 2013, he was chairman of the supervisory board. He is mainly 30 years spent taking Verlagsgesellschaft Madsack from a regional newspaper publisher to a nationwide media company and for driving the electronic revolution in the Madsack Group. He is also known for leading the restoration of the Anzeiger Hochhaus and Media Center in Hannover and for founding the Leipziger Kunstpreis.

Early Life

Friedhelm Haak was born on November 11, 1945 in Boekzetelerfehn in East Frisia, Germany. His father was an independent auctioneer. The Haak family was a long-established family of captains, shipbuilders and shipwrights from the 17th to the 19th century and owned boatyards in Carolinensiel from the 17th century. Haak undertook his Abitur at the Gymnasium Ulricianum in Aurich, before serving as a reserve lieutenant in the Luftwaffe between 1965 and 1967. In 1971, he finished his studies in business administration, economics and law at the Free University in Berlin. Haak focused on Electronic Data Processing and Operations Research. He received a masters degree (Dipl.-Kfm.). Haak then transferred to the Department of Political Sciences within the Free University of Berlin (Otto-Suhr-Institut), in 1971, and majored in systems analysis and planning. He then undertook a 2-year doctoral fellowship, from 1972-1974 and graduated with a doctorate in Political Science with Prof. dr. Carl Böhret and Prof. Gernot Wersig (1974). During this time, Haak also spent four months in 1972-1973 at the University of California, Berkeley as a visiting scholar.

Early Carrer

Immediately after finishing his doctorate, Haak, along with two of his friends, founded a consultancy firm for the newly emerging field of system gastronomy (Start-Up) in Germany. In 1976, Haak turned to development aid and joined DEG as a project manager for Spanish speaking countries. DEG is a subsidiary of KFW or the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau ("Credit Institute for Reconstruction"), formerly KfW Bankengruppe (banking group). As the federal and development Bank, KFW is charged with promoting investments made by private companies in developing and emerging countries. In 1978, Haak took over the "Special Tasks" department for Spanish and Portuguese-speaking developing countries, a department devoted to restructuring and crisis management, which provided both the necessary crisis and restructuring management on the ground and conducted negotiations with representatives of foreign banks and ministries at a higher and highest level. From mid 1980 to mid 1983, Haak was the sole managing director for the holding company of the Hamburger Buchdruckerei und Verlagsanstalt Auerdruck GmbH (Hamburg Book Printing and Publishing House GmbH). There, Haak was tasked with consolidating the individual divisions within the company, building a new management structure and creating a uniform group that was optimised for tax purposes. At the same time, he was also the sole managing director of 4 other subsidiaries and the sole signing managing director of Deutsche Druck- und Verlagsgesellschaft GmbH (German Printing and Publishing Company) in Hamburg.


In October 1983, Haak accepted the offer to become the managing director for Finance and Audiovisual Markets at Verlagsgesellschaft Madsack (Madsack Publishing House) in Hanover. He assumed responsibility for the group’s finance, Electronic Data Processing, Real Estate and New Media. Haak was a member of the Verlagsgesellschaft Madsack (Madsack Publishing House) until 1 July 2006. During this time, Haak worked across a number of different departments e.g. he was the managing director and publisher for Göttinger Tageblatt, Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung, Neue Presse Hannover, Leipziger Volkszeitung, Naumburger Tageblatt, Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten and Oberhessische Presse. Private broadcasting was virtually nonexistent in Germany until 1981, when the Federal Constitutional Court recognized the right of the federal states of Germany (Länder) to grant broadcasting licenses to private companies, which . In 1984, the Verlagsgesellschaft Madsack (Madsack Publishing House) founded their own television production company called TVN Group Holding, which sought customers from both private and public television broadcasters. TVN is now a European television service provider for major events such as the Bundesliga, Champions League, Eurovision Song Contest, etc. Haak was the founding managing director. TVN was founded with just 5 employees on the 30th August 1985, and began to produce film from November of that year. On the 1st January 1985, SAT1 became TVN’s first regional commercial broadcaster. Soon TVN was producing news shows for SAT1 and RTL, and filming parts of shows such as “We in Niedersachsen” and game shows. In the eighties and nineties, the Verlagsgesellschaft Madsack was one of the pioneers in the media industry in Germany, developing its own production, typesetting and billing systems. The resulting cost advantages ultimately created the financial conditions for expansion in the newspaper market as well. Haak is largely credited with bringing Madsack into the digital age. As managing director of the Gutenberg Computer Center, Haak initiated the transition from mainframe computers to client-server network structures in Madsack Group for several years. Gutenberg Rechenzentrum (majority shareholder Madsack) is a large IT service provider in the media industry. Following extensive restructuring, the company is now the digital service provider for the entire Madsack Group, but also works for third-party customers. The computer center is known for developing specific media software such as ViVa and the PABS product accounting system. At the end of the 1980s, Haak met Andreas Poliza. Based on Quark Xpress and the associated SQL database, Poliza had developed an editorial system for PCs for large scale consumers called P-INK. Haak gave Poliza the space to develop the program and from 1987, Madsack become the majority owner of P-INK software engineering GmbH & Co. KG. This software was then implemented into many of the company’s newspapers, e. g. BILD-Zeitung, the leading boulevard paper in Germany, the TIME Magazine in the USA, Weltwoche in Switzerland and others. Under Haak's leadership, the Verlagsgesellschaft Madsack (Madsack Publishing House) expanded its holdings in cable and radio companies beyond its area of distribution, e.g. AZ- Media (a so-called third provider within RTL) and took on radio stations such as radio ffn, BigFM, Antenne Niedersachsen, Radio Brocken etc. and cables such as KMG GmbH. At that time, Haak was the sole managing director of the APF Aktuell Presse Fernsehen Beteiligungsgesellschaft. APF was the holding company of 140 German publishing companies and owned 20% of SAT 1. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the GDR's press system crumbled, especially the daily newspapers. As a result they were sold off. Mitteldeutsche Zeitung (formerly known as "Freiheit" in Halle) was sold by the Treuhandanstalt to the DuMont Medien. The Freie Presse in Chemnitz was sold to the Schaub Medien AG. Thus the interest of the large media companies and also the politicians concentrated on the two remaining large business locations of Dresden and Leipzig. Madsack had a lot of contact with the Leipziger Volkszeitung, especially as Hanover and Leipzig are twinned. Verlagsgesellschaft Madsack wanted to acquire this newspaper. In the end, the Treuhandanstalt awarded half of the Leipziger Volkszeitung to Verlagsgesellschaft Madsack GmbH & Co. KG and the other half to Axel-Springer SE. The cooperation between the two companies formed the basis for the acquisition of the other 50% in 2009, as well as share participations in the daily newspapers in Rostock, Kiel and Lübeck. At the time, that deal was estimated at 310 million Euro. This acquisition was criticised by the Verdi union federation, since it feared that this will lead to outsourcing of many jobs, and the sinking of the salaries in the printing industry. The conflict escalated and led to several strikes, and in the end the workers and the publishing house have agreed upon a tariff agreement for the workers, who, in turn, now worked only 30 hours a week. However, the cuts were argued as necessary, since the 2008 financial crisis has hit German print industry. In The big problem was that the technical equipment in Leipzig was catastrophic as an old letterpress from 1956 was being used to print newspapers, and the typesetting was done in lead type. Already before Madsack was engaged in the Leipziger Volkszeitung they supported the company with a used offset north format printing machine. This led to the necessity to install another type setting system too. In 1993, Madsack and Springer together have invested into the construction of a new printing factory in Leipzig. The P-Ink editorial system (see below) was selected although not being fully developed. This worked and gradually heralded the end of analog typesetting for non-integrated stand-alone digital typesetting in large printing plants. It started to disrupt the jobs of the typesetting and layout professionals. The Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung started using P-INK from August 1995 consolidating 200 jobs into one databank. The P-INK software also made big changes to the way that media companies sold advertising space and avoided late night shifts for the typesetting and layout departments. Madsack launched its first online news portal at the Cebit Home in 1996. And in the early 2000s, more and more titles in the Madsack network were given their own websites. The Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung published its first e-paper in 2003. As of July 1, 1995, Haak succeeded Wilhelm Sandmann, who became Chairman of the Supervisory Board, as Chairman of the Group's Management Board. He is granted sole signing authority and thus assumes the publishing function for all editorial offices of the Group. After eleven years as Chairman of the Management Board, Haak moved to the chair of the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Verlagsgesellschaft Madsack in 2006 and was succeeded by Herbert Flecken. During this time, his deputy on the Supervisory Board was the former president of Arte TV and NDR Director General Jobst Plog. In the early 2000s, Madsack Media group already belonged to the 10 most significant publishing houses in Germany 1 , according to the report of the Commission for the research of media concentration (KEK). In its 2007 report, it noted that although Madsack didn’t own any nation- wide TV channels, it owned a part of a production company AZ Media TV, which provided services to other media.However, most of its operations were concentrated in its homeland of Lower Saxony. The heavy investment in the East German media has also contributed to the growth of the publishing house, and by the late 2010s, it was aöready the 5th biggest in Germany. Haak left the company in 2013 after more than 30 years with the Madsack publishing company. His successor on the Supervisory Board was Karl Baedeker. Haak then went into business for himself as a media consultant and worked mainly in the field of strategic management consulting as well as taking over committee activities on supervisory boards and in shareholders' meetings.

Haak and the Anzeiger Hochhaus (Tower)

The Anzeiger Hochhaus in Hannover was built in 1928 by August Madsack and architect, Fritz Hoeger, who is also known for building the Chilehaus in Hamburg. The Anzeiger Hochhaus (Tower) and in the adjoining buildings, housed the editorial office, publishing house and printing works of the Hannoversche Anzeiger. 1 Sicherung der Meinungsvielfalt in Zeiten des Umbruchs : [2.] Bericht der Kommission zur Ermittlung der Konzentration im Medienbereich (KEK) über die Entwicklung der Konzentration und über Massnahmen zur Sicherung der Meinungsvielfalt im privaten Rundfunk ; Konzentrationsbericht der KEK p.312 Hannover's city center was ruined during the second world war, but the 51-metre-high Anzeiger Hochhaus (tower) was left intact and only the dome was burnt out. Thanks to the reconstruction efforts of the city and employees who worked in the building, the Anzeiger Hochhaus was rebuilt. Rudolf Augstein founded the news magazine Der Spiegel here in 1947 and Henri Nannen also launched the weekly magazine Stern here in 1948. In 1949, Erich Madsack founded the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung (successor of the Hannoverscher Anzeiger, founded in 1893), which quickly developed into the highest-circulation daily newspaper in Lower Saxony. After 25 successful years, however, the Anzeiger Hochhaus became too cramped for the editorial staff, publishing house and print shop to work there. So in 1974, the publishing house moved into a new headquarter and printing plant in the outskirts of Hannover. The Anzeiger Hochhaus became part of the new media centre (digital world, art/kestnergesellschaft, editorial offices, HIS, radio ffn, radio antenne). Haak was always fascinated by this building and he’s responsible for the large-scale renovation of the Anzeiger Tower and surrounding buildings from 1984-2007. This is because, “the Anzeiger Hochhaus is one of the few symbols of Hannover that survived the second world war and gives the city a distinctive character” he says in the foreword of Peter Ruthenberg’s book about the tower called “Anzeiger.” In the post war years, no one wanted to take on the costly renovations, but in 1984 an international insurance company offered 20 million Mark. Haak refused this offer and Madsack started to renovate and reactivate the long forgotten architectural jewel. The Verlagsgesellschaft Madsack (Madsack Publishing House) also bought the neighbouring Goseriedebad, an Art Deco swimming pool thanks to Haak. Haak knew artists from his student days, was interested in contemporary art and was a member of the Kestner Gesellschaft (Kestner Society) and he believed that the Verlagsgesellschaft Madsack could make a lasting contribution to the artistic scene in Hannover with the Goseriedebad and the Kestner Gesellschaft was interested in renting this space long-term. Haak is also responsible for the Mendini Haus, made of glass and gold, which is also home to the editorial staff of the Neue Presse and the film and television producer TVN Group, which was designed by the Italian designer and architect brothers Alessandro und Francesco Mendini. Today, the Anzeiger Hochhaus (Tower) is the gateway to the Hannover’s media centre. The domed roof houses the highest cinema in Germany to this day. The Mendini brothers also set up the unique BUSSTOP at Steintorplatz in the vicinity of the Anzeiger Tower as part of a Kunst im offenen Raum (public art) project initiated by the Stiftung Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony Foundation) in cooperation with üstra and Toto-Lotto Niedersachsen. From 1. June to the 31. October, 2000, artist Yvonne Goulbier projected an installation of hers called ‘poesia’ onto the dome of the new Anzeiger Tower, as part of the Expo 2000.

Haak and the Leipziger Kunstpreis (Leipzig Art Prize)

Friedhelm Haak is an art lover and collector with a keen interest in architecture, as evidenced by the renovation of the Anzeiger Tower and the Mendini Haus (House) both of which gave Hannover more space for art in the surroundings of the media centre. Friedhelm Haak is known for initiating the Leipziger Volkszeitung Art Prize together with Bernd Radestock, which has gained international significance. The winners of this prestigious prize include: Via Lewandowsky (1995), Neo Rauch (1997), Jörg Herold (1999), Tamara Grcic (2001), Daniel Roth (2003), Matthias Weischer (2005), Claudia Angelmaier (2007), Julius Popp (2009), Jochen Plogsties (2011), Sebastian Nebe (2013) and Owen Gump (2015), Benedikt Leonhardt (2017). After the initial renovation of the Leipziger Volkszeitung’s publishing building on Peterssteinweg in the early 1990s, Moritz Götze’s work was hung up on the walls. Haak, who was a long-time chairman of the supervisory board of Verlagsgesellschaft Madsack, to which the Leipziger Volkszeitung belongs, had recently bought 50 pieces of Götze’s work. Haak writes: "One piece showed a chair with the inscription STUHL (chair), another, HANDGRANATE (hand grenade), showed a grenade." This witty art caused "a storm of indignation in the editorial rooms of the newspaper. There was heated discussion and this was the trigger for the Leipziger Volkszeitung to launch the art prize on its birthday." That was in 1994. The newspaper turned 100 years old that year and the award was presented for the first time in 1995. The aim of the prize is to give start-up aid to young artists who are associated with the country of Saxony, who have already made a name for themselves, but who have not yet become successful. Since then, the prize has been awarded every two years. In addition to the prize money of 10,000 euros, it includes an exhibition in the Museum of Fine Arts and an accompanying catalogue.

Advisory Roles (Selective examples)

Friedhelm Haak is a member of the Board of Trustees of the MHHplus Foundation of the Hannover Medical School and member of the Senate of the International Neurobionics Foundation. Haak has also been a lecturer at the Leibniz University and the University of St. Gallen for many years. Friedhelm Haak has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Humboldt University Foundation since 2013. Haak was, and still is, a member of the north-west German’s publishers association (VNZV) Dpa Deutsche Presse Agentur, Board member 2005, 2006