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Percy N. Barnevik (born 13 February 1941 in Simrishamnmarker) is a Swedishmarker business executive, probably best known as CEO and later Chairman of Asea Brown Boveri 1988-2002, a company he created in a bold cross-border merger in 1988. He was long considered Europe's answer to General Electric CEO Jack Welch.

Born in Simrishamnmarker in Southern Sweden as the youngest of three children, he grew up in Uddevallamarker, north of Gothenburgmarker, where his parents operated a small printing company. Barnevik competed successfully in yacht racing and says his childhood experiences still influence his decision making process. Barnevik was educated at Göteborg Universitymarker's School of Economics and Commercial Lawmarker and at Stanford Graduate School of Business. He has later received seven honorary doctorates in Sweden, Finlandmarker and USAmarker, including from Linköping Universitymarker (1989) and Göteborg Universitymarker (1991).


Barnevik started his professional career in the Swedish company Datema, but soon moved to Sandvik, because of the better career opportunities. In Sandvik, 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 Statesmarker, Sandvik started competing against the industry leaders, such as General Electric or U.S. Steel.

In 1979 he joined ASEA, a leading Swedish heavy industrial company based in Västeråsmarker. 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. Barnevik recognized his involvement on this matter both agreeing to repay half the amount of the payment and resigning from the advisory board.Percy Barnevik was the best manager of europe in economics but not in manpower policy (Rainer Tonscheidt, Haan)!


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.

Current Affiliations


  1. Percy Barnevik gets a shot - Europe's answer to Jack Welch. Article from: Fortune, Article date: June 9, 1997
  2. Ceremonier vid Linköpings universitet
  3. Fakta om hedersdoktorer - Göteborgs universitet
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