RTL Group mourns Gust Graas

20.02.2020, Luxembourg, RTL Group

It is with great sadness that RTL Group learnt of the death of Gust Graas, who was the Director and General Manager (“administrateur-directeur général”) of CLT, the predecessor company of RTL Group, from 1975 to 1988. Gust Graas died in the night from 18 to 19 February 2020 at the age of 95.

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Thomas Rabe

Thomas Rabe, CEO of RTL Group, says: "In Gust Graas we have lost a man who shaped the history and success of our Group, during a career that spanned 36 years. The fact that RTL Group has become Europe's leading audio-visual and entertainment company is also largely his personal achievement. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he succeeded in making CLT a strong European company and laid the foundations for its subsequent development. But despite casting his gaze far beyond Luxembourg’s borders, he managed to never lose sight of his colleagues and employees. So, whilst he will be remembered as a visionary respected and appreciated for his professionalism, his memory will also be cherished for his humanity, kindness and commitment to social causes. He was a truly great man!"

On 16 March 1952, as a young lawyer, Gust Graas joined the Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Radiodiffusion (CLR) and then rose through the ranks to become first Head of Human Resources and, on 13 December 1952, Secretary-General. Just under 20 years later, on 8 November 1972, Graas was appointed Deputy General Manager (“directeur général adjoint”) of CLT, and on 25 March 1975 he accepted the top job, thereafter remaining the company’s Director and General Manager until 6 July 1988.

As the man behind the launch of the German-speaking TV channel RTL Plus in 1984, together with Bertelsmann he actively supported its development, and it went on to become the flagship channel of RTL Group. On 16 May 1989, the Board of Directors honoured Graas’ tremendous contribution to CLT’s progress over his 36-year career by bestowing on him the title of Honorary General Manager. He remained the company’s Honorary General Manager until 1999, retaining his seat on the Board of CLT-UFA up until that date. Even during his retirement, Graas remained a loyal friend to RTL Group, never missing an opportunity to visit his former colleagues and friends at the Corporate Centre, where he was always received with open arms.

Graas first made his mark on CLR, then on CLT, at crucial moments in RTL Group’s history. Having joined the CLR in 1952, just after the company’s economic recovery in the wake of World War II, he was involved in numerous ambitious projects designed to prepare CLR for future challenges. He experienced CLT’s early days in television, starting in 1955, playing an active role, which ended up with him being entrusted with the general management of the channel Télé Luxembourg in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In 1957, sweeping aside the reservations of the French-speaking majority shareholders at the time, Graas supported the launch of a German-speaking radio station. The subsequent success of Radio Luxemburg proved him right, a scenario that would often be repeated in connection with following projects. It was thanks to his perseverance that in 1969 his idea of launching a weekly TV programme in Luxembourgish finally came to fruition. He decided to call the programme Hei Elei Kuck Elei, and this offering was a precursor of today’s channel RTL Télé Lëtzebuerg.

In 1984, he was one of the architects behind the creation of the German-speaking TV channel RTL Plus, the launch of which undeniably constituted a key landmark in the history of our Group.

A true visionary, throughout his long and impressive career, Graas never lost sight of the strategic need to equip CLT for the long term, and always managed to steer the Group away from any attempt to push it towards only one European market. In doing so, he succeeded in giving our Group a European and international dimension. Gust Graas always listened to what the company's employees had to say to ensure their well-being.

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