Without the Wallenbergs, no Atlas Copco

For Swedish trade and industry in general, and for Atlas Copco in particular, the Wallenberg family has had major significance. Without the family's belief in the company and its sometimes unorthodox decisions, Atlas Copco would probably not exist today.


Marcus Wallenberg meets one Atlas Copco employee at the inauguration of the Simba and Sirocco workshops in Sickla 1961.

During all the years that Atlas Copco has been in business, the Wallenberg name has held a prominent place at the company, both in an ownership capacity and in work on the board of directors – from André Oscar Wallenberg to Peter Wallenberg. A.O. Wallenberg, who founded Stockholms Enskilda Bank 1856, was Atlas' largest shareholder when the company was founded in 1873. Despite this, he initially played a relatively minor role and declined a seat on the new company's board of directors. Atlas however, was not a successful investment for Wallenberg. Because the bank was a major lender, A.O. Wallenberg's involvement in the company increased as losses grew. As early as the end of 1873, the share capital had to be increased due the purchase of land and a car workshop in Södertälje straining finances. The original initiators had lost the will to further involve themselves, so it was Wallenberg who had to provide the necessary capital. Once the facilities were completed two years later, they had cost considerably more than estimated, and Wallenberg again had to contribute with funds. During the following years, the bank had to invest increasing amounts of capital to keep the company afloat. A.O. Wallenberg eventually realized that the reason for the poor results was a matter of poor management. But it was his son, Knut Agathon Wallenberg, who had to handle this problem after his father's hasty passing in 1886. K.A. Wallenberg's first action after he took over management of the bank was to try to sell Atlas. But no buyers could be found. It was not easy to find a skilled leader for the company either, causing Wallenberg to hesitate for quite some time before discharging Eduard Fränckel as the head of the company. But in 1887, Wallenberg was able to replace Fränckel with a new president – Oscar Lamm. In 1890, K.A. Wallenberg's half-brother Marcus Wallenberg Sr left the legal profession to work at the bank instead. His first task was to deal with an extensive restructuring of Atlas. This entailed the founding of Nya Atlas, with the old owners losing their investments. The Wallenberg family took the greatest loss of two million Swedish crowns, plus an additional two million in unpaid loans to the bank. The year before, the brothers had taken part in negotiations that were to have major significance for Atlas' continued operation – negotiations for the purchase of manufacturing rights for diesel engines.

Radical approach by Marcus Wallenberg Jr.


His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden, Peter Wallenberg Sr and Atlas Copco president Tom Wachtmeister on the occasion of the King's visit to Atlas Copco Great Britain Ltd, 1975.

Marcus Wallenberg Jr succeeded his father in 1933 as the Atlas Diesel chairman of the board. He had made his debut on the board five years previously, barely 30 years of age. His first challenge was to get the company through the Great Depression of the 1930s. Thanks to his belief in the company's future, capital could be raised for an extensive expansion program, which gave the company opportunities to grow. Another measure that had major significance for Atlas' continued success was the decision in 1948 to phase out the production of diesel engines. Marcus Wallenberg Jr was also behind two unorthodox presidential selections. The first was Walter Wehtje, who in contrast to his predecessors did not have a technical background, but instead came from retail trade. The other was Wehtje's successor, diplomat Kurt-Allan Belfrage, who initiated a thorough reorganization of the company.