Percy Barnevik

Percy Barnevik
Born (1941-02-13) 13 February 1941
Simrishamn, Sweden
Nationality Swedish
Occupation former CEO

Percy Nils Barnevik HonFREng[1] (born 13 February 1941) 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.[2] He is the co-founder of the non-profit organization Hand in Hand.[3][4]


Born in Simrishamn in southern Sweden, 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 the USA, including from Linköping University (1989) and Göteborg University (1991).[5][6] Barnevik received also the IEEE Engineering Leadership Recognition Award (1993).[7]


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,[8] Chairman of ABB 1996–2002, Member of the Board of DuPont, USA 1991–1998 and Member of the Board of General Motors, USA 1996-2009. He was also a regular Bilderberg Group attendee 1992–2001 and belonged to the group's Steering Committee.[9]

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.[10][11]


In 2003, Barnevik co-founded charity Hand in Hand with Dr Kalpana Sankar in Tamil Nadu, India. The charity, which fights poverty through job and business creation, has since grown to include programs in 10 countries: Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, India, Afghanistan and, more recently, Cambodia and Myanmar.[12] Hand in Hand’s mission is to work for economic and social empowerment of the poorest and most marginalized people by supporting the development of businesses and jobs. Since 2003, the Hand in Hand network has helped start and sustain 1.3 million businesses and has generated 1.9 million jobs.[13]

Personal life

Barnevik lives in London. In an interview he once stated that he took a test which stated he was unsuitable for a managerial position.[14][15]

Current affiliations

Business positions
Preceded by
Torsten L. Lindström
CEO of Asea
Succeeded by
Preceded by
CEO of ABB Group
Succeeded by
Göran Lindahl
Preceded by
Peter Wallenberg, David de Pury
Chairman of ABB Group
Succeeded by
Jürgen Dormann
Preceded by
Arne Westerberg
Chairman of Sandvik
Succeeded by
Clas Åke Hedström
Preceded by
Chairman of Skanska
1992– 1997
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Peter Wallenberg
Chairman of Investor AB
Succeeded by
Claes Dahlbäck
Preceded by
Chairman of AstraZeneca
Succeeded by
Louis Schweitzer


  1. 1 2 "List of Fellows".
  2. "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". 18 April 2010. Archived from the original on 2010-04-18. Retrieved 13 May 2012.
  3. "Hand in Hand International Founders".
  4. "Corporate Titan Percy Barnevik's $50 Million Bet On Poverty Reduction". Forbes.
  5. "Ceremonier vid Linköpings universitet". Retrieved 13 May 2012.
  6. Fakta om hedersdoktorer – Göteborgs universitet Archived 28 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. "IEEE Ernst Weber Engineering Leadership Recognition Recipients" (PDF). IEEE. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  8. Archived 2 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. "Former Steering Committee Members". Bilderberg Group. Retrieved 2014-02-08.
  10. "ABB ex-bosses pay back benefits". BBC News. 11 March 2002.
  11. "Jürgen Dormann succeeds Percy Barnevik as chairman of ABB". 21 November 2001. Retrieved 13 May 2012.
  12. "HiH Where We Work".
  13. Hand in Hand International
  15. Barnevik, Percy. Percy Barnevik on Leadership. Sanoma.
  16. Archived 10 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  17. "Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences: Barnevik, Percy". Retrieved 13 May 2012.
  18. "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
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