Gottlieb Piltz, 1918-1922

The art of engineering and business  Gottlieb Piltz

Gottlieb Piltz, 1874-1937, President, 1918-1922

Ericsson gained a real telephone expert when Gottlieb Piltz was elected company president in 1918.

During his 20 years with Stockholms Allmänna Telefonaktiebolag (SAT), the last ten of which as president, Gottlieb Piltz acquired in-depth knowledge of telephone operations and management through projects that included starting telephone stations and telephone concession negotiations in eastern Europe.

In 1918, SAT and Ericsson were merged. SAT's Gottlieb Piltz and Ericsson's Hemming Johansson were elected joint presidents of the newly established company, Ericsson, during the four-year term that Piltz would serve as president.

Gottlieb Piltz and Hemming Johansson had similar backgrounds: both were qualified engineers, each of whom after determined efforts had advanced within a completely new and unknown sector. Piltz had the ability to quickly familiarize himself with new duties and rapidly recognized which technical and operational improvements were needed. Among other measures, he established a special experimental department at the company. Here, the focus was mainly on automatic telephone installations, for which there was increasing demand.

On the administrative side, Piltz was no pioneer, however. When an idea for a landscape office was raised at Ericsson in 1919, Piltz was not one of its supporters. In a memo, he wrote: "the working capacity of the individual will be significantly enhanced when the individual is able to work undisturbed by the efforts and conversations of others, etc."

As [joint] president of the merged company, he continued his successful work in the area of negotiating new concessions for the operation of telephone networks and the establishment of new telephone operating companies abroad. During his term at Ericsson's helm, Piltz drove through the establishment of the Polish telephone operating company PAST. He also entered into negotiations with the Italian government regarding telephone concessions in the country and it was largely thanks to Piltz that Ericsson was able to establish a company for telephone operations in southern Italy in 1925.

Despite his skillful discussions with international contacts, Gottlieb Piltz was not a consummate negotiator. It was mainly his experience and extensive know-how of telephone operations that paved the way for Ericsson's foreign business.

On occasions, Piltz, business and commercial ability was, in fact, bought into question. At the time of the Ericsson and SAT merger, certain SAT shareholders were of the opinion that Ericsson would benefit from the transaction at the expense of SAT. Critics even hinted that Piltz had been "outfoxed" by Ericsson's Hemming Johansson and Arvid Lindman. Karl Fredrik Wincrantz, who would replace Piltz as president of Ericsson in 1922, was one of those critics.

Following Wincrantz assuming power in 1922, Piltz was instead appointed a director of Ericsson with responsibility for handling technical matters. However, he remained a member of the Ericsson Board until 1925. That same year, Ericsson entered the Italian telephone market and Piltz became director of the local company, based in Naples. After all, it was Piltz who had been instrumental in creating the conditions necessary for the establishment of an Italian company. Five years later, Piltz was appointed to the Board of the holding company Setemer in Milan. At the same time, he served as Ericsson's Procurator General in Italy until his death in 1937.

Author: Katarina Reinius

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