Peter Wallenberg, the Swedish financier who helmed one of Europe’s largest corporate dynasties for 15 years, has died at the age of 88 in Stockholm County.
The elder statesman took over the Wallenberg family business following the death of his father in 1982 – a move that many believed would bring about the end of the family’s century-long dominance of the Swedish banking and industrial sectors.
However, the fourth-gen rose to the occasion and helped transform the ailing family business into a global conglomerate with interests in pharmaceuticals, telecommunications and banking, and now holds stakes in Saab, Ericsson and Electrolux.
Born in Stockholm in 1926, Wallenberg began his career in finance after studying law at Stockholm University. He worked across the UK, the US and Africa for Swedish industrial company Atlas Copco before settling in Sweden.
His elder brother Marc had originally been groomed to take over the family business but committed suicide in 1971. The speculation at the time was that Marc had not felt capable of taking over the family’s flagship financial group, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB).
Following the death of his eldest son, Marcus Wallenberg publicly expressed doubt over Peter’s ability to run the family business and made a covert deal with rival industrialist Pehr Gyllenhammar to sell a 25% stake in Stora and Atlas Copco to Volvo.
The deal indicated that Marcus saw Gyllenhammar, the chief executive at Volvo, as the most suitable candidate to succeed him as head of Investor, the Wallenberg's investment company.
The negative press coverage that ensued spurred Peter on to fight back against his detractors and outmanoeuvre Gyllenhammar for control of the business.
When Peter became chairman of Investor in 1982, which at one time held approximately 40% of shares traded in Sweden, the financier bought up A-class shares in his various businesses in order to increase family control.
As a tireless networker, Wallenberg built up the family business through his ability to open doors, eventually creating such a network of businesses that the family’s influence became colloquially known as “the Wallenberg sphere”.
Today, the Wallenberg sphere comprises approximately 20 non-profit foundations – the Wallenberg Foundations – and the industrial holdings companies Investor AB and FAM and their respective holdings.
When Peter stepped down in 1997, Investor’s net assets had increased by 77.1 billion kroner (€9.3 billion) to reach 78.9 billion kroner.
Peter Wallenberg was married three times and leaves behind two sons, Jacob, who is the current chairman of Investor, and Peter, who holds a seat on Investor’s board.