Kinnevik Board Ousts CEO Grabau After Less Than Three Years

  • Swedish investment company names Joakim Andersson acting chief
  • Kinnevik says Grabau is leaving company with immediate effect

The Kinnevik Investment AB headquarters stand in Stockholm, Sweden.

Photographer: Casper Hedberg/Bloomberg

Kinnevik AB has ousted its Chief Executive Officer Lorenzo Grabau, after deciding the Swedish digital investment company needed a new leader for the “next phase” of its strategy.

The Stockholm-based firm appointed Joakim Andersson as acting CEO, and said that the board will start a search to find a permanent successor for Grabau.

Joakim Andersson

Source: Kinnevik AB

At a board meeting that started Tuesday evening, Kinnevik determined that it “needed different skills” in its CEO for an era in which the company is competing with the likes of Google and Amazon.com Inc. for investments, Chairman Tom Boardman said at a press conference Wednesday.

Boardman and board director Erik Mitteregger informed Grabau of their decision following the Tuesday meeting. Grabau’s departure is effective immediately.

“I don’t think it was a complete bolt from the blue,” said Boardman. “The skills we need start with a deep understanding of markets, of technology, of consumers and consumer behavior.” That’s a “different set of skills” than Kinnevik needed two and a half years ago when it named Grabau CEO, he said.

Grabau will keep his seat on the boards of Millicom International Cellular SA, Qliro Group AB, Tele2 AB and Zalando SE. Andersson has been chief financial officer at Kinnevik since February 2015, after joining in 2001.

Kinnevik shares rose less than 0.1 percent to 223.5 kronor at 12:19 p.m. in Stockholm.

Different Leader

Although Grabau’s exit was abrupt, Kinnevik has been considering new leadership for some time, according to Boardman. He stressed that there was “no single event” and the board has “the highest regard for Lorenzo,” but added that the plan to appoint a replacement was already being discussed in separate conversations among board members.

Boardman said the gathering "momentum" to remove Grabau led him to call a special board meeting the night before a scheduled gathering Wednesday to make a clear decision.

Grabau spent 17 years as a mergers and acquisitions banker at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., before taking up the helm at Kinnevik in May 2014, following the successful seven-year tenure of Mia Brunell Livfors, who more than tripled the company’s stock price during her tenure.

However, over the past year Kinnevik has been undergoing a period of consolidation. The Swedish investor, which has a market value of about $6.8 billion, has spent 2016 building up investments within its own portfolio. Kinnevik is currently working on the disposal of “five or six companies” from its portfolio of 35, according to Boardman.

Kinnevik will aim to have a new CEO in place by spring, said Boardman.

Family Investor

The family fund, chaired until June this year by Cristina Stenbeck, the granddaughter of its Swedish industrialist co-founder, and now by Boardman, traces its roots to the 1800s, with holdings that were historically in paper, iron and wood. 

More recently, the investor pivoted into cellular phones and cable, and in 2010 teamed up with German entrepreneur Oliver Samwer’s Rocket Internet SE, investing 631 million euros ($676.9 million) in retailer Zalando and 155 million euros in Rocket, becoming the biggest shareholder after Samwer and his brothers. Kinnevik still owns a 13 percent stake in Rocket. 

However, after disagreements about the strategy of that company, Grabau stepped down as chairman late 2015, and left the board in May this year.

In an interview with Bloomberg in November, Grabau said Kinnevik will spend 2017 investing 2 billion kronor ($220 million) to 3 billion kronor in companies worldwide. In March this year, Kinnevik also announced plans to recruit additional financiers to help it invest in e-commerce. 

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