Hans Rausing in 2002. He deprecated the high life: ‘Either you have 20 mistresses covered with diamonds or you achieve something with your money. For me it is a passion to try to create industry in different ways,’ he said. Photograph: Martin Godwin/The Guardian
Hans Rausing, who has died aged 93, became a billionaire through the Tetra Pak drinks packaging enterprise. He deposed the Queen from the top of Britain’s rich list many years ago but told an interviewer: “I am an industrialist. I understand machinery. I understand things. I do not understand money. I have no idea how much money I have.” Forbes magazine, though, calculated that he was the world’s 112th richest person, with a net worth of $12bn built on the Tetra Pak fortune that he and his brother Gad inherited from their father, Ruben, in 1983.
Rausing has died just a week before his granddaughter was reportedly due to marry in a Gloucestershire parish church. News of the death of the Swedish-born billionaire who helped make his family the richest in the UK broke on Friday night.
It comes a week after the gossip columnists claimed that Lucy Rausing, one of his seven grandchildren, is to marry her photographer fiance, Constantin Kirwan-Taylor, at a church on her father’s £12million Gloucestershire estate.
The Tetra Pak empire
The Tetra Pak empire began in a kitchen in Lund, Skåne, in Sweden’s dairy heartland, in 1944. Ruben Rausing was watching his wife, Elisabeth (nee Varenius), make sausages, pinching the ends shut. That gave him the idea for a sealed triangular pouch that could be a germ-free means of storing milk. Along with a research scientist, Erik Wallenberg, Ruben developed the idea into a rectangular cardboard carton for storing milk, juice, yoghurt and ice-cream. “The object was to construct a package that would be free from leakage without any special tightening process before being filled,” Wallenberg said. Ruben bought the patent and all rights from Wallenberg for less than £300.
Hans Rausing and his brother Gad inherited Tetra Pak (later Tetra Laval) in 1983 after their father and the company founder, Ruben Rausing, died. By then Tetra Pak was a world leader in food packaging. Hans served as CEO from 1950 to 1983, after which he assumed the role as chairman.
In 1995, Hans sold his stake to his brother for an estimated $7 billion. Gad died in 2000; his children Finn, Jörn and Kirsten – all billionaires — still own the company, which has $15.2 billion (€13.9 billion) in revenues.
In addition to his wife, Märit, Rausing is also survived by three children: Lisbet, Sigrid, and Hans Kristian. In a statement, his children said, “Hans Rausing had a tremendous drive and to the end a commitment to entrepreneurship both in Sweden and globally. We are proud of that, but most of all we will of course always carry warm memories of him as a loving father.”
Gloucestestershire heir pays tribute to Tetra Pak billionaire father who has died a week before granddaughter’s society wedding in Cotswolds