Helmut Claas, the long-time managing director, chairman of the supervisory board and chairman of the shareholders' committee of the Claas group passed away on January 5 at the age of 94.

His death came as a great shock to the family that gave its name to the world-renowned brand, as well as more than 11,000 employees around the world. But he will also be mourned by the wider industry in which Helmut Claas was held in legendary status.

He was born in 1926 in Harsewinkel, in Germany, which is home to one of the company's largest manufacturing bases. His parents, August and Paula Claas, managed a small agricultural machinery firm with a workforce of around 100 and he transformed the company after being made managing director in 1962.

His special focus was always on developing pioneering products and mass-producing them economically. During his era, following the success of the Dominator combine harvester, came the completely new combine harvester construction the Lexion, which today is one of the most efficient combine harvesters in the world.

Also, the Jaguar forage harvester and the large tractor Xerion were developed under his stewardship.

In 2003, an important step was when Claas took over the complete tractor business from Renault Agriculture in France.

He had long since taken care of the ongoing development of the family business, as his daughter, Cathrina Claas-Mühlhäuser, manages the decision-making and development of the successful group of companies.

A company statement said: "The death of Helmut Claas leaves behind a space in the world of agricultural technology that cannot be filled. His family, all the shareholders, the group executive board and the staff are mourning the passing of a great personality and will continue to develop the Claas Group as he would have wished."

* Read more in next week's issue of The Scottish Farmer.