• Peter Gwiazda

FAQ about Stiftung Mercator


How long has the foundation been in existence?

Stiftung Mercator GmbH was entered in the commercial register in 1996 and commenced its work in the following years.


Who founded Stiftung Mercator?

Stiftung Mercator GmbH, Essen and Stiftung Mercator Schweiz, Zurich were founded by the Schmidt family, which has donated a substantial amount of its own assets to the foundation.

The Schmidt family is one of the main shareholders of the Metro Group, alongside Haniel and Beisheim. The Schmidt family has been running a successful Duisburg-based wholesale and retail business for three generations now. The business started out in 1906 when the C. W. Jung department store was established and entered the wholesale business in 1923 when the Karl Schmidt OHG company was founded. After the Second World War, Spar-Zentrale Ruhrgebiet, P+Q SB-Warenhausgesellschaft, E+W Schmidt GmbH and Mercator GmbH were founded. Wilhelm and Ernst Schmidt, the second generation of the successful family of merchants, opened the first Metro Cash & Carry Store in Essen in 1963.

In 1964, they teamed up with fellow entrepreneurs, Beisheim and Schell, who were planning to open a cash & carry store in the neighbouring town of Mülheim-Ruhr, to found a joint company. They were joined by a new finance partner, Duisburg-based retail company Haniel, for the implementation of the third cash & carry store in Berlin. With Haniel on board, the rapid expansion of the group was possible, though by this time Schell was no longer part of it. This merger of retail companies led to the establishment of the Metro Group in 1996 with the Schmidt, Haniel and Beisheim families as majority shareholders.


What is the relationship between Stiftung Mercator Germany and Stiftung Mercator Switzerland?

Essen-based Stiftung Mercator Germany and Zurich-based Stiftung Mercator Switzerland were both founded by the Karl Schmidt family. Since June 2017, both foundations have been funded by the higher-level Meridian Stiftung. Consequently, both foundations are now linked. They are driven by the same guiding philosophies and convictions, work independently of one another and are active in similar thematic fields.


Where does the foundation’s name come from?

The foundation is named after Duisburg's famous cartographer and cosmographer, Gerhard Mercator (1512-1594). His maps and globes were more precise than any other ones in existence, and they were very popular with all kinds of customers, from courtiers to seafarers. They established standards that were to remain unsurpassed during the following two centuries. For example, the "Mercator projection" developed by Gerhard Mercator was the standard map projection for nautical purposes because of its ability to represent lines of constant course, which considerably simplified ocean navigation and is still in use today. The term "atlas", which describes a collection of geographical maps, was also coined by Mercator.

Mercator was the son of a cobbler. He went to university in Löwen, remaining there after his graduation to set up a business. This is where his career took off. In 1544, however, he was arrested and charged with heresy, under suspicion of holding protestant beliefs. This is probably what drove him and his family to relocate to Duisburg, a city famous for its tolerance of religious diversity, in 1552. It is also possible that he was offered a chair at the planned university, though he never lived to see it founded. Mercator spent the following 42 years in Duisburg and to this day he is the city's most famous citizen.

His name stands for the connection between global thinking, scientific precision and entrepreneurship. Mercator's life also symbolizes the significance of intercultural and interreligious tolerance – values that Stiftung Mercator also supports.


Why is Stiftung Mercator based in Essen?

The Schmidts, a family of merchants and entrepreneurs, come from the Ruhr and feel a strong sense of loyalty to the region.


Where do the assets of Stiftung Mercator come from?

The assets of Stiftung Mercator come from the funds provided by the Schmidt family.


Is the foundation a non-profit enterprise?

Stiftung Mercator GmbH is recognized by the Essen-South tax office as a non-profit corporate enterprise, as evidenced by the foundation’s current exemption certificate.

How can I apply for a Stiftung Mercator grant?

In principle, anyone can apply for funding for projects that support the achievement of the clearly-defined strategic objectives in our themes. Our funding guidelines and funding application forms can be found on our website. You can also find answers there to frequently asked questions about the application procedure. If you meet the necessary criteria, you are also welcome to apply to any of our current vacancies that are published online.