Born in Stolp (Pomerania), Willy Jacobsohn first trained as a pharmacist and subsequently studied natural sciences and chemistry at the universities of Munich and Berlin. After obtaining a doctorate in 1909, he worked in a small pharmaceutical factory before moving to Beiersdorf in 1914. At the end of the war, he took over the management of the laboratory and the international department as one of the four managing directors. In 1922 – after Beiersdorf had become an Aktiengesellschaft (a German public company) – he was appointed Chairman of the Executive Board. Under his management, the factories in Hamburg were expanded and, in particular, the company’s international business established in the years following the First World War.
In 1933 he resigned – along with the other Jewish members of the Executive Board – and took over responsibility for the company’s international business from Holland, emigrating to Los Angeles in the USA via London in 1938.