Frederik Philips

Philips headshot
Born in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, Frederik Jacques Philips (1905-2005) graduated in mechanical engineering from Delft University of Technology in 1929. At the age of 25 he joined N.V. Philips, the Dutch company founded by his uncle Gerard and his father Anton which had grown into the European market leader for lighting and radio. His first job was works engineer in the Philite factory; he was then put in charge of the Eindhoven Machine Factory and subsequently of all machine shops. Later, he led departments developing products outside Philips’s core business (at the time, radio receivers and lamps), including electro-acoustical, welding and lighting products (gas discharge lamps, such as sodium and mercury vapor lamps). In 1936 he became deputy manager and in 1939, manager. Frederik Philips was one of four members of the Board managing the firm during the German occupation. During those difficult years the management of the company in occupied Europe rested on his shoulders. Frederik Philips became vice-chairman of the Presidium and of the Board of Management when both bodies were set up in 1946.

He then headed Philips from 1961 until 1971, one of the company’s most successful periods: Philips employed over 350,000 employees worldwide and was a leading manufacturer of consumer electronics, medical devices and lighting. Philips’ in-house research lab, a novelty when it was established in 1914, invented the electric rotary razor, cassette tape, and together with Sony, the CD and DVD. Throughout his life, Frederik Philips was a major advocate for the development of medical equipment. After transforming the consumer electronics market for decades, Philips did the same in the medical field.

Ahead of his time, Frederik Philips believed in and practiced socially responsible management. He wanted Philips to take care of all parties involved, shareholders, suppliers, employees and customers. From 1929 onwards, Frederik Philips was a committed Protestant member of
Moral Re-Armament (MRA) or Oxford Group, an international movement based on religious core values. In business, MRA strived for close cooperation and mutual respect between employers and employees. In 1986, Frederik Philips launched the Caux Round Table (CRT) group of senior European, Japanese and American business executives. The CRT’s Principles for Business was presented to the UN Social Summit in Copenhagen in 1994. It has since become a standard text and has been used as the basis for internal ethical assessments by international companies.

Frederik Philips received numerous awards, including honorary citizenship of Eindhoven and Hasselt (Belgium), honorary doctorates from the universities of Louvain and Taipei and honorary titles in Japan, France, Germany, India and elsewhere. In 1995
Frederik Philips was honored as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem in Israel, for saving the lives of 382 Jewish employees of Philips during World War II. His Autobiography 45 Years with Philips covers the highlights of his personal and professional life.

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45YWP eBook cover