Lars Ramqvist, 1990-1998

The strategist

Lars Ramqvist, b.  1938 - 
CEO 1990-1998

When Lars Ramqvist took over as CEO for Ericsson the company was on a strong forward march. The year before, in 1989, Ericsson had achieved its best results to date, thanks to a new strategy that once again concentrated on the core operation: public telecommunication and radio. Behind this strategy was the executive management group in which Lars Ramqvist had been involved since 1986.

Ramqvist was employed in 1980, advanced to vice president of Ericsson Information Services, became CEO for Rifa AB and later CEO for Ericsson Radio Systems AB, before becoming group manager ten years later.

This quick rise through the ranks of the company was, above all, due to Ramqvist’s strategic abilities. As executive vice president from 1986 to 1988, he was onboard, and helped create the organization that turned the company from crisis to success. The board decided to appoint him CEO when his predecessor, Björn Svedberg, left in May of 1990.

Lars Ramqvist continued his strategic work as CEO. Four months after he became CEO he presented a new organization in Sonthofen, Germany, where Ericsson’s top executives had gathered for a meeting. Ramqvist’s vision was to make Ericsson, a company sometimes characterized as overly technically managed, into a more customer oriented company.

The Sonthofen organization made Ericsson a more receptive company. This gave the customers more influence through local sales companies, and the entire group was made stronger by certain divisions supporting the executive management’s work.  
During this time Ramqvist advocated the need to adapt and change with a dynamic industry. One should never be completely satisfied with one’s own company organization.

“We must conduct analyses every quarter, both of ourselves and our products, compared to the market and the competition,” he explained. “Otherwise your fate can change in just a few minutes. The company must fight hard with standardization institutions globally. It is not solely an issue of working with new technology. Behind the scenes there is a constant political game being played. And Ericsson must be a part of that.”

Lars Ramqvist grew up in a working class home in Grängesberg, located in the Bergslagen mining district of Sweden. When he was in his 20’s he left home for the university city of Uppsala and got his first industry job with Stora Kopparbergs AB in 1963.

In 1965 he was employed by the Axel Johnson Institute and became their manager from 1976 to 1980. In parallel with his employment, he continued his scientific studies and in 1969 received a Ph.D. and became a lecturer on the subject of non-organic chemistry. He later became a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences and received honorary degrees in both Peking and Moscow.

With his scientific background, Ramqvist realized the importance of investing in technical research and development work even if the financial era did not allow. During the recession due to the Gulf war in 1991 and 1992 Ramqvist had to defend the fact that over 20 percent of Ericsson’s invoices went to research and development.

But a year later the CEO stated in the annual report that: “… our strategy has proved to be correct and our technical investments have been necessary”. Orders had begun to increase, which according to Ramqvist would not have been possible without the company’s comprehensive new developments on the technical side.

Also during Ramqvist’s management, employee development was a priority, and he contributed to the competence development resources by forming a division within the Ericsson Management Institute.

When Lars Ramqvist took over the position of chairman after eight years as CEO in 1998, Ericsson had presented its best results yet, with a stock value nine times higher than when he began eight years earlier.

Author: Hans Wigstrand

Contribute to this story