In the information society, with its new media climate and the growing number of analysts during the 1990s, the position of head of communications at Ericsson became more important than it once had been. And what was needed was not technological expertise but an understanding of what had happened and what was about to happen in the industry, in the analysts’ world, in Sweden and in the rest of the world.
At the beginning of November 2001, it was announced that Roland Klein had quit as head of communications. Klein, a German, joined Ericsson in March 2000 after several years in the same role for Daimler-Benz/DaimlerChrysler.
The task of finding new candidates for the post went to a headhunter, Ulf Assargård.
“About a year and a half earlier, in the spring of 2000, Ericsson had peaked on the stock exchange. Since then the company had made major errors in its communications and its ability to speak to the market was being questioned in the media. This was the first major recruitment for Ericsson since the first signs of crisis had emerged, and the first external recruitment for a long time,” says Assargård.
It was a two-edged sword: this was the most prestigious job in communications in Sweden, but Ericsson’s reputation had been tarnished. Leaks and incorrect information had played a part. There were also rumors about friction within Ericsson’s Communications department, says Assargård.
It is interesting that, in a speech to Swedish communications managers in 2001, Klein blamed himself for not learning better Swedish – it would have made his job easier, he said.
Moving its head office to London was, in Assargård’s analysis, an error of judgment from Ericsson, not least from the communications perspective. Almost all the news emanated from Sweden, after all. Another factor was the degree of media criticism of Hellström. “The question I had to consider was: how interested is Hellström in communications issues?”
Hardly anyone was surprised when Henry Sténson, head of communications at the airline SAS, was approached. “When I analyzed Henry Sténson’s background I was able to tick off everything the job description demanded. I could see that Henry must have gone through purgatory at SAS. And I felt this was positive for the Ericsson position.”
When asked if he was interested in a new job, Sténson answered no. “Unless it is at Ericsson.”
Sténson’s competitor for the post in the final round was Odd Eiken, at that time vice-president at communications bureau Kreab and previously head of communications for the Swedish Employers’ Federation. Hellström wanted Eiken, while Treschow’s choice was Sténson.
Sténson took over on May 22, 2002, and was soon flung into several demanding issues: remuneration (the fee to be paid to Treschow as chairman), voting rights for A and B shares, and the furor when Treschow was to become a member of the board of ABB (even though his position at Ericsson was described as a full-time commitment that justified an extra fee in 2002 and 2003).
Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn