When Carl-Henric Svanberg joined Swedish mobile-giant L.M. Ericsson (ERICY) as CEO in April, 2003, the company was slogging through the worst downturn in its history. Revenues had plunged 50% since 2000, and 55,000 employees had been cut.
Today, Ericsson is humming again. Earnings this year could hit $2.4 billion on a 22% jump in sales, to $19 billion, forecasts analyst Per Lindberg of Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in London. Ericsson shares have tripled since Svanberg took over, and they're up 58% this year.
Svanberg, 52, had a lot to prove. He was a telecom outsider, having run lock maker Assa Abloy. But he wasn't afraid to push for changes. He split off the group that makes mobile network systems from the one churning out high-volume transmitters. "They're different businesses," Svanberg notes. "This is the kind of thing that strikes you when you come in from the outside."
The past year has had some tough moments. Svanberg was a close friend of Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, who was murdered last fall. And he was dismayed by Swedish voters' rejection a few days later of a ballot initiative to adopt the euro.
To escape, the CEO sails on his ocean-class yacht with his family. With the wind now at Ericsson's back, Svanberg may find time for a few more sailing trips.