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Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell and wife Mary arrive at Martin-Luther-Church on May 17, 2014 in Stein, Germany. (Joerg Koch/Getty Images)
Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell and wife Mary arrive at Martin-Luther-Church on May 17, 2014 in Stein, Germany. (Joerg Koch/Getty Images)

Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell propelled pencil maker into global brand Add to ...

Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell, who led the centuries-old German maker of the humble pencil used in classrooms around the world and added a line of jewel-encrusted pens, has died at the age of 74.

Count Von Faber-Castell died on Jan. 21 in Houston following a severe illness, his company, based in Stein, Germany, said in a statement.

He was a “model businessman, whom we both admired as an extraordinary entrepreneur and a farsighted personality, and who above all was a role model as a fellow human being to us,” the company said.

The eighth generation of his family to run the enterprise, Count von Faber-Castell took control in 1978, when it began producing makeup pencils for the cosmetics industry.

During the next four decades, he propelled the brand into a $935-million business, offering four-figure pens under the Graf von Faber-Castell label in addition to mechanical pencils, art supplies, and standard ballpoint and rollerball pens.

Count Von Faber-Castell, who became Faber-Castell AG’s chief executive officer in 2000, emphasized setting up foreign subsidiaries. Faber-Castell Malaysia, an eraser producer, was the company’s gateway to Asia in 1978. Today, the manufacturer operates throughout Asia and Latin America.

The company was founded in 1761 in Stein near Nuremberg. Starting in the mid-19th century under the fourth generation’s Baron Lothar von Faber, it became a major producer of graphite pencils under the A. W. Faber brand, according to the company’s website. Following the 1898 marriage of Ottilie von Faber to Count Alexander zu Castell-Rudenhausen, the company became known as Faber-Castell.

Faber-Castell AG’s No. 2 pencils remain a fixture of educational test-taking and math classes. Sales of wood-cased pencils account for most of its revenue. he company, with 7,500 employees in 23 countries and nine production plants, also makes limited-edition writing instruments. Its premium line includes fountain pens with 18-carat gold nibs and barrels embedded with precious stones. Its 2016 “pen of the year,” called the Schoenbrunn Palace Vienna, has a four-sided barrel with hand-ground plates made from deep black onyx and will sell for about $11,600).

Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell was born June 7, 1941, in Bamberg, Germany. He was educated in Germany and Switzerland and received a law degree in 1966 from the University of Zurich. In 1972, he graduated from the Institut pour l’Etude des Méthodes de Direction de l’Entreprise, in Lausanne, Switzerland.

After a one-year internship at the family business, he worked as an investment banker from 1971 to 1977 in both London and New York, spending four years at Credit Suisse White Weld. When his father died in 1978, he became the sole managing partner of Faber-Castell Group.

His first marriage was to Carla Mathilde Lamesch, who died in 2010. He leaves his second wife, the former Mary Elizabeth Hogan, and children Charles, Katharina, Sarah and Victoria.

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