Hemming Johansson, 1909-1925

Hemming Johansson
Born August 5, 1869
Died January 6, 1955

Company president 1909-1925 (jointly with Gottlieb Piltz from 1918, and jointly with Carl Fredrik Wincrantz between 1922 and 1925).

One day, towards the end of September 1898, I received a call from Axel Boström, who at that time was office manager at Ericsson; he wanted us to discuss a personal matter.

This is how Hemming Johansson recalls the prelude to his joining Ericsson - an engineering appointment that was to lead to a 16-year term as company president and 50 years as a member of the Ericsson Board.

Hemming Johansson was not really the type to become a president. He was primarily an engineer, who just happened to be in the right place when the company's former chief executive, Axel Boström, died unexpectedly. At that time, the 40-year-old Johansson was a member of the Ericsson Board and was strongly established in the company.

As president he gave the company stability, mainly as a result of his extensive expertise within the field of telephone technology. His experience was extremely useful in the cooperation undertaken with the Swedish Board of Telecommunications (Telestyrelsen), for example. Hemming Johansson had a progressive outlook and understood the direction in which technical development was headed and adjusted his measures accordingly.

He also had a reputation for supporting others. As president, he personally wrote the reports of young people who showed special interest in telephone technology during their practical training at Ericsson. His aim was that they should gain access to studies at an institute of technology, even if they lacked a school-leaving certificate.

Hemming Johansson was always aware of the fact that he was principally an engineer and thus made sure that he was surrounded by colleagues who could complement him with know-how during his term as president. During the years 1909-1918, he worked very closely with the Board, which consisted of just two persons, apart from himself.

Hemming Johansson received some criticism for managing the company with a working Board; specifically it was said that he delegated responsibility to the Board for matters for which he should have taken individual responsibility. Johansson's response was that he did this only for the good of the company. In one of his books, in which he describes Ericsson's history and his own memories from the telephone industry, he writes:

"I freely admit that my two colleagues may have been put to hard use; they were forced to not only sit at the Boardroom table for discussions and decision-making, but also had to travel abroad on many occasions."
During this period, production plants were established in Vienna, Budapest and Paris, and Hemming Johansson saw advantages in the Board being able to meet and make decisions at the locations in question.

The Board also worked to bring about the merger between Ericsson and Stockholms Allmänna Telefonaktiebolag (SAT), which became effective in 1918 and resulted in a greater number of Board members. The merger also resulted in Hemming Johansson sharing the post of president with SAT?s Gottlieb Piltz.

During the final three years of his term as the company's chief executive, Hemming Johansson shared the post of president with Karl Fredrik Wincrantz, whereby the latter executive functioned as an administrative director and Johansson as technical director. In 1925, Wincrantz assumed sole control as chief executive through the acquisition of a major shareholding. A number of Board members, including Hemming Johansson's former partner Arvid Lindman, were urged to resign. Hemming Johansson retained his seat on the Board, but was demoted from the position of joint president to simply technical director.

Hemming Johansson received his greatest recognition in the field in which he was most passionately interested. He was awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering Sciences, grand gold medal, the Chalmers medal and, in 1944, he was awarded a newly instituted honorary doctor's degree in engineering technology.

Author: Katarina Reinius

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