- Brands aren’t immune to having skeletons in their proverbial closets.
- Many of these controversial pasts date back to World War II and the Holocaust.
- A number of well-known and popular brands were directly involved in supporting the Nazi war effort.
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2019 brought about a number of bombshell revelations regarding JAB Holding Company, the conglomerate behind notable brands like Panera Bread, Pret a Manger, Krispy Kreme, and Au Bon Pain.
JAB is controlled by Germany’s billionaire Reimann family. German newspaper Bild uncovered documents indicating that company founders "Albert Reimann Sr. and Albert Reimann Jr. were supporters of the Nazi party and that during World War II they used Russian civilians and French prisoners of war as forced laborers."
According to the New York Times, the company’s history became even more complicated when it was revealed that the Reimann family actually descends from both Albert Reimann Jr. and Emilie Landecker, a young woman whose Jewish father was killed by the Nazis.
JAB Holding has set about addressing the controversy through philanthropic contributions. A JAB spokesperson told Business Insider that the company has set up a "€10 million fund, donated to provide humanitarian assistance for survivors of the Holocaust and victims of forced labor in World War II."
JAB Holding isn’t the only company that’s had to reckon with its past, although its story is arguably more complicated than most.
Business Insider rounded up a number of companies with particularly dark histories. Out of those, L’Oréal, Chanel, the Volkswagen Group, Ford, Hugo Boss, and BMW did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment. Puma declined to comment.
Here’s a look at a number of companies with notably controversial pasts:
In addition to its €10 million donation, a JAB spokesperson told Business Insider that the company also plans "to provide €250 million to the Alfred Landecker Foundation over the next 10 years, which will become a rolling commitment in perpetuity."
Matt Dunham/AP Images
The Alfred Landecker Foundation’s stated mission is to educate "current and future generations about the Holocaust and the terrible price paid when intolerance and bigotry reign." The foundation is named for Emilie Landecker’s father.
Fashion designer Hugo Boss was an active member of the Nazi Party during World War II. So it’s no surprise that his firm produced uniforms for both the SS and the Hitler Youth, sometimes using the forced labor of French and Polish prisoners.
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