Swedish business executive, who, as chair of Asea Brown Boveri (ABB), transformed the company into a model international corporation and the world's largest electrical engineering group. He was named as ‘CEO of Europe's most respected company’ in the Financial Times/Price Waterhouse survey of Europe's senior executives for four years in a row from 1994.
Barnevik joined Asea of Sweden as president and CEO in 1980, and by 1987 had carried out a radical corporate shake-up, turning it into a billion dollar business, ranked about tenth in its field worldwide. In 1988 he negotiated the merger between Asea and its longstanding rival, Switzerland's Brown Boveri. Following what was then one of Europe's largest and fastest cross-border deals, Barnevik became the ABB president and chief executive. His management model was based on the shared values of a global corporate culture which had the freedom to adapt to local market conditions and operations. He also believed that delegation would only work with strong control at the centre.
In 1996 he stepped down as ABB chief executive (although remained non-executive chair) to chair Investor AB, Sweden's largest industrial holding company. Besides ABB, Investor had controlling stakes in many global companies, including Ericsson, Saab, Astra, and Electrolux. He stepped down as chair of ABB in 2001 and of Investor AB in 2002 after he was involved in the dispute with ABB over the size of his pension, which had been described as excessive in the light of the company's trading problems at that time.
Born in Sweden into a small family print business, Barnevik received an MBA from the School of Economics, Göteborg, in 1964, and continued his studies at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in the USA. From 1966 he held a variety of positions at the Johnson Group management consultancy until 1969 when he was appointed head of administration and group controller of Swedish steel company Sandvik AB. He was appointed president of Sandvik's US operations in 1975 and then group chair from 1983 until 2002.
Barnevik has also served as a director of General Motors USA and the pharmaceutical concern, Astra-Zeneca (UK), a member of the Foreign Investment Council, and a representative of the European Commission to the ASEM (Asia-Europe) Vision Group. As well as his chairmanship of the EU Enlargement Work Group, he has been a member of the European Round Table of Industrialists, the World Economic Forum Foundation Board, the Advisory Board of the US Council on Foreign Relations, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, and the Advisory Councils at Stanford University and Wharton School of Business Administration. He holds honorary degrees from European and US universities.
Barnevik, Percy N