We're celebrating our history by acknowledging each person who has sat at the helm of Ericsson since 1876. Each of them has played a unique part in driving innovation and successfully shaping the company we see today.
Major events in our history
|1876||Lars Magnus Ericsson opens telegraph repair workshop|
|1881||First major contracts won in Norway, Russia and Sweden|
|1900||1000 employees globally, SEK 4 million in sales and 50,000 telephones produced|
|1902||Sales office opens in US|
|1905||First acquisition made in Mexico|
|1923||First automatic 500-point switches in service|
|1946||Foundation for research into television established|
|1950||LM Ericsson telephone exchange supports world's first international call|
|1977||First digital telephone exchange (AXE) installed|
|1988||First GSM system order from Vodafone, UK|
|1991||AXE lines exceed 105 million in 11 countries, serving 34 million subscribers|
|2000||Ericsson becomes world's leading supplier of 3G mobile systems|
|2001||Ericsson conducts the first 3G call for Vodafone, UK|
|2005||Ericsson wins biggest contracts to date to manage operator 3's networks in Italy and the UK|
|2008||Research center established in Silicon Valley, USA|
|2009||Verizon and Ericsson collaborate to carry out first data call on 4G network|
|2011||Ericsson completes the acquisition of Telcordia|
|2012||Ericsson completes the acquisition of BelAir|
Over the past 140 years, Ericsson has successfully navigated through stock market crashes, world wars, and rapidly changing markets and technology. Strong leadership has ensured that our business not only survived, but lasted to become a global leader in ICT.
Lars Magnus Ericsson, CEO 1876 – 1900
Lars Magnus Ericsson was an innovator and entrepreneur with a passion for technology. In 1876, he started a small company on Drottningatan 15, central Stockholm, which went on to become one of the largest telephone equipment manufacturers in the world. In 1880, he launched the first wall-mounted telephone and delivered the first switchboard, called the Crossing Bars. In 1893, Ericsson, a designer at heart, redesigned the cylindrical metal telephone to be an attractive product with hidden technology.
With regards to employees, Ericsson was like a modern manager – unreserved and open-minded. He had a talent for recognizing gifted employees and, despite his cautious nature, was quick to place his trust in young and relatively unproven recruits. Ericsson was also a big advocate of occupational training; he established internal training programs for staff to gain practical experience as they worked.
A trusting relationship prevailed, not just on the shop floor but with employees across the company. For his part, Ericsson endeavored to create a good working environment for his staff. As early as 1891, Ericsson established a health plan in which all employees and their families were offered free medical care. Salaries were also relatively high and working hours reasonably short.
No one, least of all Ericsson himself, could have imagined that within a few short decades he would have created a global industry, simply by realizing the future importance of telephones.
Axel Boström, CEO 1900 – 1909
At 36, Axel Boström took on one of the greatest challenges of his life – he succeeded Lars Magnus Ericsson as company president. Boström had already achieved significant success within Ericsson. He had worked his way up from shop floor worker to elected board member by 1896, when Ericsson became a limited company. Four years later, Boström was voted president of the company.
Boström possessed the attributes typically associated with successful corporate leaders; he was both entrepreneurial and determined. He proved himself to be highly perceptive in business, but also strong-willed and stubborn, which led to disagreements with the more cautious Ericsson. However, more often than not, it was the company founder who eventually gave in and followed Boström's lead.
During his time as president, Boström relocated many of Ericsson's production operations abroad. This was a trend that had started earlier, but accelerated under his leadership. Boström was also quick to respond to changes in the market. When domestic trade stagnated he focused on exports, devoting himself to the business of selecting and hiring foreign agents.
Boström had a great enthusiasm for automobiles. However, it was this passion that ultimately led to his death one Sunday evening in July 1909, when his treasured automobile crashed.
Hemming Johansson, CEO 1909 – 1925
Born in Gothenburg in 1869, Hemming Johansson initially joined Ericsson as an engineer. He went on to lead the company for 16 years as president, and was an Ericsson board member for 50 years.
During his presidency, Johansson steered Ericsson towards greater stability. A key strength in Johansson was in knowing his weaknesses. He understood that the knowledge and strengths of others could complement his own to achieve greater success. With this approach, Johansson worked closely with the Ericsson board to bring about the successful merger of Ericsson and Stockholms Allmänna Telefonaktiebolag.
Johansson had extensive knowledge of telephone technology, and intuitively knew the direction in which technical development was headed. It was this progressive outlook that formed Johansson's decisions and actions, and the future path of Ericsson.
Gottlieb Piltz, CEO 1918 – 1922
Ericsson gained a real telephone expert when Gottlieb Piltz was elected as company president in 1918. During his 20 years with Stockholms Allmänna Telefonaktiebolag, with the last ten as president, Piltz acquired in-depth knowledge of telephone operations and management through projects that included setting up telephone stations and telephone concession negotiations across eastern Europe.
In 1918, when SAT and Ericsson merged companies, Piltz served a four-year term as president alongside Ericsson's own Hemming Johansson. Piltz and Johansson had similar backgrounds as they were both qualified engineers, and both had advanced within a completely new and unknown sector. Piltz quickly got to grips with his new role and identified which technical and operational improvements were needed. Among other measures, he established a special experimental unit within the company. The focus was mainly on automatic telephone installations, which were increasingly in demand.
During his term at Ericsson's helm, Piltz managed the acquisition of Polish telephone operating company, PAST. He also entered into negotiations with the Italian Government regarding telephone concessions in the country. It was thanks to Piltz that Ericsson was able to establish operations in southern Italy in 1925. His skillful negotiations with international contacts, experience and extensive knowledge of telephone operations paved the way for Ericsson's foreign business.
Karl Fredrik Wincrantz, CEO 1922 – 1930
Karl Fredrik Wincrantz became the sole president of Ericsson in 1925, after sharing the post for three years with Hemming Johansson. Wincrantz had been president of Stockholms Allmänna Telefonaktiebolag subsidiary, Stockholmstelefon AB. Wincrantz joined Ericsson as a result of the merger between Ericsson and SAT, and was an engineer like Johansson. Wincrantz, however, devoted himself to business and organizational tasks. He worked primarily on developing new business relationships, particularly those outside of Sweden.
Wincrantz was an outgoing person who felt equally at home in social, business, and political circles. When Wincrantz became sole president, he was able to take greater risks. He intensified efforts to win concessions for operating foreign telephone networks, and devoted a considerable amount of time to lobbying political leaders and other decision makers.
During his tenure, Wincrantz enlisted the support of renowned Swedish financier Ivar Kreuger, whom he regarded as the perfect advisor with his knowledge of international finance, and his considerable personal wealth and resources. Kreuger went on to acquire a large number of Ericsson shares and had a considerable influence in the company.
The partners eventually drifted apart and the split between the two became official in 1930. During September of that year, Wincrantz stepped down as president after being outmaneuvered by Kreuger. Wincrantz passed away in the winter of 1932, at the age of 58, a few months before the infamous 'Kreuger Crash'.
Johan Grönberg, CEO 1930 – 1932
A difficult task faced Johan Grönberg when he took over as president of Ericsson in 1930. Grönberg valued loyalty highly, both towards the company and towards the board of directors. However, during this time it was the Swedish financier Ivar Kreuger who, due to his substantial shareholding, controlled the deals that were being made. Kreuger withheld information needed by Grönberg and the board to make the best decisions. For example, a contract was signed in 1930 between Ericsson and the holding company Kreuger & Toll to finance a loan that Kreuger had taken. The board was not informed until almost a year later.
Although Kreuger chose Grönberg as president, Grönberg's principal loyalty was to Ericsson. For his part, Kreuger was convinced that his actions were strengthening Ericsson's position and contributing equity to the company. At Kreuger's request, Grönberg implemented a number of financial transactions between Kreuger & Toll and Ericsson. By the end of 1931, it became apparent that Ericsson had a claim on the Kreuger group amounting to 65 million SEK.
In September 1932, six months after Kreuger's death, Grönberg was asked to step down as president. The demand was made by Marcus Wallenberg in exchange for his bank, Stockholms Enskilda Bank, stepping in to help Ericsson.
Hans Theobald Holm, CEO 1933 – 1942
During a board meeting held in September 1932, a unanimous decision was made to employ Hans Theobald Holm as Ericsson's next president. As an engineer and technician, Holm had no experience of the telephone industry, but his ability to rationalize operations and strengthen organizations was to his advantage. This was needed at Ericsson, which at the time was suffering from severe financial problems as a result of the 'Kreuger crash'.
It was Marcus Wallenberg, owner of Stockholms Enskilda bank, who hand-picked Holm for the job. Without Holm, who had his unconditional support, Wallenberg was not willing to let his bank continue to finance Ericsson. Johan Grönberg, who was president at the time, was forced to resign in favor of Holm, who was president of Bofors.
During his first year on the job, Holm applied himself energetically to the task. A new central sales organization was created and business operations were rationalized. By 1937, Holm had guided Ericsson towards greater stability. The company had been transformed from financially uncertain to financially secure. In a bid to improve the working environment for employees during this time, a light, spacious and open workplace was created. Holm was also interested in art, and worked to make the company's premises more aesthetically pleasing.
At the age of 65, Holm retired. His work was finished. Efficiently and methodically, he had steered Ericsson out of its worst ever crisis.
Helge Ericson, CEO 1942 – 1953
When Helge Ericson was appointed president of Ericsson in 1942, a telecom engineer was once again in charge. Ericson was recruited from Televerket, the Swedish company later known as Telia. It was here that Ericson gained over 20 years of comprehensive knowledge in the telephone industry.
It was not only Ericson's extensive industry experience that made him an excellent choice for the job. In the early 1940s, when World War II was raging, trade relations with the rest of the world were naturally affected. Ericson had worked within the National Industrial Commission and so had valuable knowledge of supply problems caused by blockades during this time. The fact that Ericson succeeded in quickly adapting both manufacturing and sales during post-war conditions is another tribute to his management capabilities.
Ericson was a social person who was driven by a creative spirit and, according to Marcus Wallenberg, chairman of Ericsson's board for many years, "everything just seemed to grow around him". While Ericsson could be very determined when it came to business, he was known to treat others equally, regardless of their position. It was a quality that made him popular amongst employees.
Ericsson evolved into a pure telecommunications company under Ericson's leadership. Existing factories were expanded and modernized, and several new ones were built, including the first of Ericsson's Swedish industrial plants outside of Stockholm. Ericson also started a sales company to serve customers outside of Sweden more effectively.
In June 1953, illness forced Helge Ericson to retire as president of Ericsson. He died that same year, on August 14.
Sven Ture Åberg, CEO 1953 – 1964
"Shoot" was often Sven Ture Åberg's greeting when an employee wished to speak with him. Åberg was an approachable manager who listened carefully to what his colleagues had to say. "We were always given time to discuss things, but were expected to get straight to the point," remarked a colleague.
The difficult times faced by Ericsson in the early 1930s forced the company to dramatically reduce its personnel. Åberg was one of those forced to leave his job. However, he was later re-employed and in 1953, after nearly 25 years at Ericsson, he was appointed president.
Under Åberg's direction, Ericsson became a major international company. Thanks to many years spent abroad, Åberg had excellent language skills which, in combination with his skills as a salesman, made him a formidable negotiator. At the same time, Ericsson became more sales-oriented. The company achieved considerable market success with its products, particularly the crossbar switching system, which resulted in manufacturing companies being established in several foreign markets.
In 1956, the Ericofon, most commonly referred to as the Cobra, was launched under Åberg's leadership. It remains one of the best-known innovations and breakthrough designs in Ericsson's history. It was a one-piece telephone manufactured in six different colors, which was in itself a revolution in the black and white world of the telephone.
In 1964, after 11 successful years as president, Åberg made the choice to resign. He remained on the Ericsson board until his death in 1974, serving his final year as an honorary member.
Björn Lundvall, CEO 1964 – 1977
Ericsson's tenth president, Björn Lundvall, was an engineer in every way. During his 13-year presidency, technology was the area in which Ericsson made its greatest progress. The company's first computer-controlled, automated switching system, the AKE, was launched in 1968. Just a few years later, work began in earnest on the AXE system, which would go on to be a huge success in the international market.
Lundvall was not only interested in technology, he was also a keen manager, salesman and negotiator – qualities he developed during his employment with Ericsson. Before becoming president, Lundvall completed a management course in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he further honed his leadership skills.
Though he initially lacked experience in finance and accounting, Lundvall proved to be a willing student and became an expert in financial matters. He always paid attention to details, and when he traveled for work, he would produce long and very detailed reports on his trip.
In 1977, the same year that the first AXE station was completely installed, Lundvall resigned as president and succeeded Marcus Wallenberg as chairman of the board.
Lundvall remained loyal to Ericsson throughout his professional life, from the time he was employed at the age of 23 until his death in 1980.
Björn Svedberg, CEO 1977 – 1990
Björn Svedberg was just 40 years old when he accepted the job of Ericsson president. "If age is the only problem, then it will solve itself," said Svedberg at the time. Like most of his predecessors, Svedberg was an engineer graduate from Stockholm's Royal Institute of Technology and received his on-the-job training at Ericsson.
In the early 1980s, after the successful development and launch of the AXE system, the company invested heavily in computers, terminals and complete office information systems. This proved to be a premature move. Products such as the Ericsson minicomputer were not technically perfected, and the pace of expansion was too rapid. By the mid-1980s, Ericsson stopped investing in computers and Svedberg initiated a re-structuring program that included many tough decisions.
By 1989, Svedberg had transformed Ericsson's crisis into success by growing the company's European markets and focusing on its strengths – telecommunications and the development of the AXE system, which had transformed Ericsson into an industry leading player. To date, the AXE has been delivered to more than 130 countries, making it the world's best-selling telephone system. Its speed and flexibility also laid the foundation for Ericsson's success in mobile telephony.
In addition, intensive investments in mobile telephony were beginning to produce results. In 1989, under Svedberg's leadership, Ericsson launched a major advertising campaign aimed at consumers. Harry HotLine was born – the adventurer who was always connected, thanks to his HotLine mobile phone. In 1990, Ericsson was still on its way up when Svedberg resigned as president to become chairman of the board.
Lars Ramqvist, CEO 1990 – 1998
When Lars Ramqvist took over as Ericsson CEO, the company was on a strong forward march. The year before, in 1989, Ericsson had achieved its best results to date, thanks to a new strategy that once again concentrated on its core operations: public telecommunication and radio. Behind this strategy was the executive management group in which Ramqvist had been involved since 1986. Ramqvist rose quickly through Ericsson's ranks largely due to his talent for strategy, which continued during his term as CEO.
Ramqvist became the first CEO to be recruited from within the radio business. He took the entrepreneurial spirit and new marketing philosophy with him from radio, and spread this across Ericsson. During this time, Ramqvist built on the success of the AXE system, further strengthening its global expansion and helping to advance Ericsson to the position of No 1 telecommunications vendor in mobile infrastructure.
With his scientific background, Ramqvist recognized the importance of investing in technical research and development, even if the short-term financials were challenged. During the recession years of 1991 and 1992, Ramqvist had to defend the fact that over 20 percent of Ericsson's net sales were invested in research and development. But a year later orders had begun to increase. According to Ramqvist, this would not have been possible without the company's comprehensive new developments on the technical side.
In 1998, when Ramqvist took over the position of chairman after eight years as CEO, the market value of the company had increased by nine times.
Sven-Christer Nilsson, CEO 1998 – 1999
In the spring of 1998, Sven-Christer Nilsson took the position of president and CEO at Ericsson. The board had chosen a carpenter's son from Malmö, Sweden who had, prior to his promotion to CEO, transformed Ericsson's business division for the American standard mobile systems, increasing turnover by six times in six years.
The biggest change made under Nilsson concerned strategy. His ability to think strategically applied to production as well as technology. Nilsson predicted that voice and data communication would, more and more, take place through IP-based networks, rather than traditional tele-networks that had much lower capacity. Consequently, Nilsson concentrated on integrating the telecommunication world with the computer world.
Nilsson's understanding of IP proved to be of great importance to Ericsson. His hard work in establishing a solid foundation has been invaluable to Ericsson's present day success in the fields of IP and data.
Kurt Hellström, CEO 1999 – 2003
Following a long career that included laying the foundation for Ericsson's success in China and heading the company's Mobile Systems business, Kurt Hellström moved to Hong Kong as Market Area Head for Ericsson in Asia. It was at this point that he was persuaded to take over as CEO. During the summer of 1999, 56-year-old Hellström took his place at the helm of the company.
At the time Hellström became CEO, Ericsson's mobile phone division had encountered major problems, so a difficult assignment lay ahead. Add to this mix a stock market crash, and it is not a comfortable situation for any CEO. Instead of spending time in the fast-growing and exciting Asian market, as originally planned, Hellström was orchestrating the most extensive downsizing in Ericsson's history.
Despite the difficult times in the telecoms industry, Hellström was determined to build a strong financial foundation for the future. As Hellström put it: "We cannot control the market, but we can control our own operations." 2002 was a turning point. Ericsson expanded its activities in professional and technical services and technologies, and put even greater focus on its key customers and core systems business. This strategy proved successful, as the commitment to developing 3G wireless technologies enabled Ericsson to pave the way for future success.
Hellström also spent a year negotiating to unite Ericsson's mobile phone division with the clever designers at Sony to create the joint venture, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications. Under his decisive leadership and actions, Hellström paved the way for Ericsson to continue being the most successful telecommunications company in the world.
Carl-Henric Svanberg, CEO 2003 – 2009
Carl-Henric Svanberg took the position as Ericsson CEO in April 2003. At this point in time the company was going through a major re-structuring process, and Svanberg's first job as CEO was to complete this process. With new leadership and a new organizational structure, Svanberg initiated a strategic approach that led to positive margins and cash flows. The new joint venture company, Sony Ericsson, also showed positive results, despite the backdrop of a telecoms market that was being heavily restructured. A landscape of more than 12 telecoms vendors was reduced to just 4 or 5.
When Svanberg began as CEO, the newly created Business Unit Global Services had a turnover of 25 billion SEK. When he left, the turnover was up to 70 billion SEK. Alongside this, Ericsson had started its journey to become one of the world's largest software companies.
Svanberg initiated the 'bolt-on' acquisition strategy that started the consolidation of the telecoms industry. Over the course of his tenure, he worked to build Ericsson up from a point of crisis to having a market share double the size of its closest competitor, and an undisputed position as the world's leading provider of wireless communications equipment.
In 2009, Svanberg ended his term as President and CEO and moved on to a new position as chairman of British Petroleum.