Sweden's Wallenberg dynasty prepares for sixth generation

Sun Nov 23, 2014 3:22am EST
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By Alistair Scrutton and Niklas Pollard

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Jacob Wallenberg, the 58-year-old head of one of Europe's most enduring family dynasties, is trying to work out how the empire controlling much of Sweden's economy could look with a woman or someone without the family name at the helm.

Roughly 30 members of the sixth generation, aged between 15 and 30, are contenders to see if they could one day run Wallenberg's Investor holding company and several foundations with major stakes in Electrolux, Atlas Copco and Ericsson.

There are no clear favorites and the job could also go to an outsider, but whoever is picked to lead an empire so famous a popular beef dish takes the family name, will have to decide if it should invest in new and faster growth companies beyond its financial and industrial roots.

In egalitarian Sweden, the family is seen as a model of how to expand a company through generations without squabbles and the appointment will be made according to experience rather than assertions of birthright.

Wallenberg, who has not indicated he plans to step down, organizes seminars for some young family members at an old estate.

"They have to get the experience, and then we’ll see what happens. And the sixth generation is in the middle of that right now," said Jacob Wallenberg, sitting in his wood-paneled office five minutes walk from Stockholm's Royal Palace.

The empire began in 1856 when Andre Oscar Wallenberg founded Stockholms Enskilda Bank, now part of SEB. The family's fame and influence grew with the company, helped by the construction of a wealthy Stockholm suburb and one scion who became a hero for saving Jews in Hungary in World War II.

While many family empires implode in feuds or have the assets split by an ever growing number of descendents, the Wallenbergs have so far avoided this.   Continued...

Swedish banker and industrialist Jacob Wallenberg speaks in this picture taken May 6, 2014. REUTERS/Jonas Ekstromer/TT News Agency