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Percy Nils Barnevik (born 13 February 1941 in Simrishamn) is a Swedish business executive, best known as CEO and later Chairman of Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) 1988–2002, and for being the centre of a giant pension dispute that shook Sweden in 2003.
Born in Simrishamn in Southern Sweden as the youngest of three children, he grew up in Uddevalla, north of Gothenburg, where his parents operated a small printing company. Barnevik was educated at Göteborg University's School of Business, Economics and Law and at Stanford Graduate School of Business. He has later received seven honorary doctorates in Sweden, Finland and USA, including from Linköping University (1989) and Göteborg University (1991). Barnevik received also the IEEE Engineering Leadership Recognition Award (1993)
Barnevik started his professional career in the Swedish company Datema, but soon moved to Sandvik. In Sandviken, where between the years 1969 and 1970 he hired over 150 people, his employees say "he has some kind of magic in him—you just can't refuse his offer." He developed unique relationships with many of his colleagues which helped him to improve the communication. In 1975, he was promoted to CEO of Sandvik's American operations, Sandvik Steel. Within the next four years he tripled the revenues, grossing $250 million, and turned the company profitable. During his work in the United States, Sandvik started competing against the industry leaders, such as General Electric and U.S. Steel.
In 1979 he joined ASEA, a leading Swedish heavy industrial company based in Västerås. In 1987 he decided to merge with its Swiss competitor – Brown Boveri Ltd. It was the largest merger at that time. He held the position of CEO of ASEA 1980–87, was CEO of Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) 1988–1996. He was Chairman of Sandvik 1983–2002, Chairman of Skanska 1992–1997, Chairman of Investor AB 1997–2002, Chairman of AstraZeneca 1999–2004, Chairman of ABB 1997–2001 and member of the Board of du Pont, USA 1991–1998. He was also a regular Bilderberg Group attendee 1992–2001.
During his 8 years as CEO of ASEA followed by the 9 years as CEO of ABB, the company achieved an increase of stock value of 87 times or 30% average per year over the 17 years. Net profit increased 60 times and sales 30 times. Based upon these extraordinary results Barnevik received a one-off payment of 148 million Swiss francs when he retired as CEO in 1996. 2002, six years later under a second succeeding CEO, ABB stock market value plummeted from 54.50 francs in 2000 to just under 15 francs. When ABB's board made the pension payment public, a huge scandal ensued and Barnevik was forced to resign as chairman of Investor, the Swedish investment company controlled by the powerful Wallenberg family, and to hand back a large chunk of his pension to ABB.
Since 1999, Percy Barnevik is involved, both as a major donor and as an adviser, in the Indian charity organisation Hand in Hand and their programmes to eliminate rural poverty. He has received special attention in the media for his work with entrepreneurship, Self Help Groups, and microfinance among women as a way out of poverty. By the end of 2007, 272,000 women have been organized and trained and have started 106,000 small enterprises. Since 2006 Hand in Hand is also engaged in South Africa and Afghanistan.
|Preceded by||CEO of Asea|
|CEO of ABB Group|
|Preceded by||Chairman of ABB Group|
|Chairman of Sandvik|
Clas Åke Hedström
|Preceded by||Chairman of Skanska|
|Preceded by||Chairman of Investor AB|
|Preceded by||Chairman of AstraZeneca|