our cooperative

50th anniversary of GFT

Official ceremony at the Museum for Communication in Berlin

On 16th of October 1972, representatives of leading suppliers of telephone systems met with an employee of the German Cooperative Association Rhineland at the Hotel Sylter Hof in Berlin. The 16 companies joined together to form the purchasing cooperative "G.F.T. Gemeinschaft Fernmeldetechnik eGmbH". GFT then chose Düsseldorf as its place of business. In the spring of 1973, GFT began its business activities. Already in the first year of its existence, a turnover of DM 2.5 million was achieved.

In the meantime, more than 50 years have passed and GFT has always held its own against the competition and continuously developed. GFT honoured this occasion - in addition to its traditional autumn conference - at an anniversary celebration. Around 200 guests, including members, partners, suppliers as well as employees, attended the event at Berlin's Museum für Kommunikation on 29th of September 2022.

As part of the official ceremony, GFT embarked on an exciting journey through time over the past 50 years. Historians successfully retraced GFT's 50-year history, resulting in a corporate film that underscores the company's close ties to its members, partners and suppliers. Guests were also treated to a colourful programme of live interviews, a magic show by media magician Andreas Axmann and private tours of the treasure chamber of the Museum of Communication. In addition, the well-known quick-draw artist and caricaturist, Locy Hobrecht, produced special mementos for the evening's guests. The ceremony was accompanied musically by the legendary Weimar band "Rest of Best". The guests celebrated 50 years of GFT until the early hours of the morning.

Insights into the history and present 

Together, Rolf Kalthöfer, one of the founding members of GFT, Gerhard Förtsch, former first Chairman of the VAF Bundesverband Telekommunikation and member of the Supervisory Board of GFT, and Thomas Schmieske, Head of Central Channel Europe at Unify (partner company), reviewed the key points of the company's history.

"We were already aware at the time that this day was special," Kalthöfer recalled the mood at the time among the company's founders, who gathered at the Sylter Hof on 16 October 1972. The independent telecommunications installers had come up with the idea of using their own business enterprise to independently take care of the purchasing, storage and distribution functions that were indispensable for their companies. They no longer wanted to be dependent on outsiders in the industry, but to exert influence on the telecommunications market themselves as a strong regulator. And according to Kalthöfer, this hurdle had to be overcome together: "The working committee was aware that it could only be active if all members, even the smallest ones, would join this community in terms of purchasing. Because only as a whole could the purchasing community become strong," says Kalthöfer.

We were already aware then that this day was special. 

Rolf Kalthöfer

The founders therefore chose the legal form of a cooperative for GFT because it was the best way to realise the modern principles of cooperation among self-employed people - i.e. entrepreneurial self-determination and self-administration in conjunction with the cooperative's legal mandate to provide support. This is because the members remain absolutely independent in all decisions for their own company. After all, they make all fundamental decisions themselves within the framework of the general assembly, in accordance with: "One membership, one vote". And this principle obviously still works today, as Gerhard Förtsch pointed out:  

"After all, the members are also competitors, which tends to make cooperation more difficult. But there the principle of 'one member - one vote' creates a high level of trust. Moreover, the transparency in the general assembly and the promotional mission instead of the goal of profit maximisation ensure that we don't feel ripped off." In its cooperative structure, GFT as an ICT-owned company is thus consistently oriented towards the requirements and interests of the member system houses, which are managed under their own responsibility.

"From a competitive point of view, we have an interest in a functioning market where the market power of individual companies is limited. But conversely, we also have an interest in our products and services being known to all market participants. This is where the cooperation with GFT helps, as its platforms make it easier for us to penetrate the market," said Thomas Schmieske, assessing the cooperation in the purchasing association from the perspective of the partner manufacturers.

GFT makes market penetration easier for us.

Thomas Schmieske
50 Years of GFT

16 companies found the "G.F.T. Gemeinschaft Fernmelde-technik eGmbH" in 1972

Honouring and farewell to Rudolf H. Saken as CEO

A special highlight of the evening was the honouring and farewell of Rudolf H. Saken, Spokesman of the Executive Board of GFT. For 21st years, he had played a key role in guiding the fortunes of the cooperative purchasing association for ITC and security technology, during which time he developed the cooperative into a leading industry player in Germany. His duties in the management function will be taken over on 1st of October 2022 by Birger T. Aasland, who will form the Executive Board together with Dr. Stefan Touchard.

In recognition of his commendable work and commitment to the GFT, Saken received the Golden Badge of Honour of the DGRV. This is the highest honour in the German cooperative system and is awarded for special and long-standing services in cooperative work. The gold pin was awarded to him by the Chairman of the Cooperative Federation Council, Dr. Peter Hanker.

Rudolf H. Saken bids farewell after 21st years on Executive Board.