It was in 1873 when the 29-year-old son of a saddlemaker, Axel Johnson, started his first independent trading office. The export of iron and import of coal laid the foundation for Axel Johnson's expansion. Today, the family business has been around for 150 years, and the common thread throughout all these years has been constant renewal, while always believing in value-driven and long-term ownership. The images below are sourced from Engelsbergsarkivet.

1873Axel Johnson is founded

The saddlemaker's son and the trade clerk, Axel Johnson, who had moved to Stockholm from Jönköping, founded A. Johnson & Co, an agency and commission business on Lilla Nygatan in Stockholm. The company's main focus from the beginning was the import and export of raw materials.

1883 Saving Avesta Jernverk

Avesta Jernverk faces a crisis, and during the reconstruction, A. Johnson & Co becomes a co-owner. Over 30 years later, Axel Johnson acquires the majority of shares, making Avesta Jernverk fully owned by Axel Johnson.

1890 The shipping company Rederiaktiebolaget Nordstjernan is founded

The steamship Annie Thérèse, named after the founder's wife, becomes the company's first vessel. The foundation of Johnson Line is established, which becomes a new regular steamship line between Gothenburg and La Plata, a city just southeast of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

1910 The Consul General takes over

Axel Johnson passes away, and in his final stage of life, he hands over the reins to his eldest son, Axel Ax:son Johnson, also known as the Consul General. The Consul General is characterized by his entrepreneurial spirit and actively seeks to connect businesses to create integrated value chains.

1928 Oil refinery and road company

The Consul General, Axel Ax:son Johnson, builds Scandinavia's first oil refinery in Nynäshamn to supply ships with diesel. From the by-products, asphalt is produced, creating a new business opportunity where road construction begins. This is an example of how the operations provided each other with goods and services.

1958The third generation takes over

The Consul General, Axel Ax:son Johnson, passes away, leaving behind 100 companies with 22,000 employees. His son, Axel Ax:son Johnson, also known as the Mining Engineer, takes over as the CEO of Nordstjernan and the trading company A. Johnson & Co. Nordstjernan becomes foundation-owned and receives the majority of the Johnson Group.

1960International business

The Mining Engineer, Axel Ax:son Johnson, carried out a powerful modernization and expanded Axel Johnson into an international trading company with a significant presence in North America and a strong foothold in over 50 countries worldwide.

1971Import and export

In addition to international business, significant investments were made in the shipping industry, and Axel Johnson led the way in adopting new technology with a transition to container traffic. During this time, the company became a crucial player in Sweden's import and export to the Soviet Union. Axel Ax:son Johnson's daughter, Antonia, also began working in the company during this period.

1979New CEO

The Mining Engineer, Axel Ax:son Johnson, falls ill early on and suffers a cerebral hemorrhage. His daughter, Antonia Ax:son Johnson, steps into the company, and Göran Ennerfelt, who had long worked with the Mining Engineer, becomes the CEO.

1982Antonia becomes the Board Chair

Antonia continues to grow within the company and takes on the role of Chairman in A. Johnson & Co. Simultaneously, Nordstjernan undergoes restructuring, and the business collaboration between Nordstjernan and A. Johnson & Co gradually diminishes. Antonia, as Chairman, and Göran, as CEO, form a strong partnership that spans over three decades, together building the modern Axel Johnson.

1985The Wage Earner Funds

Large demonstrations are held in Sweden against the plans to introduce wage earner funds. Antonia gets involved in the issue and becomes a well-known figure throughout the country.

1988 Focus on consumer trade

The group underwent a significant restructuring as all trade and distribution of oil, ore, metals, and steel were phased out, as well as businesses in Russia. International trade and distribution remained the foundation, and in 1988, the SABA Group was acquired, including Åhléns, Dagab, Hemköp, B&W, and Saba Trading. A. Johnson & Co changed its name to Axel Johnson.

1990"The Good Company"

Antonia was a pioneer in sustainable business practices long before it became a widely recognized concept. In 1990, she established the concept of "The Good Company," with a focus on quality, environment, and health. The concept still lives on today and has become an important guiding principle for the group.

1993 Foundation for environment and development

Antonia Ax:son Johnson's Foundation for Environment and Development is established, now more commonly known as Axfoundation. It is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to working concretely and practically for a sustainable society. The foundation represents the first step towards what is now Axfoundation – an independent and non-profit "do-tank" that works for positive societal change with sustainability as its mission, in collaboration with businesses.

1999Investing in growth companies

Axel Johnson's investment arm, Novax, is established, and it invests with a broad investment mandate. Novax later focuses on building areas that can become significant future pillars within Axel Johnson, with a focus on areas such as Health, Future of Food, and Technical Security.

2000Axfood takes shape

Axfood is formed through mergers of the Hemköp chain, Dagab, and the D Group. Willys begins its expansion and becomes a nationwide chain that has since been the fastest-growing player in the Swedish grocery market. Food becomes an increasingly clear focus area for Axel Johnson.

2001 AxFast becomes a sister group

The real estate company AxFast is bought out from Axel Johnson and instead becomes a successful sister group within the Axel Johnson Group.

2005Fourth and fifth generation

Antonia Ax:son Johnson's daughter, Caroline Berg, starts working at Axel Johnson. This means that two generations are now working together to develop the group. Caroline's focus is on communication and Human Development at Axel Johnson.

2005New acquisitions

Axel Johnson becomes the majority owner of Mekonomen Group, and Swedish Bevakningstjänst becomes a wholly-owned subsidiary of Axel Johnson. At the same time, Axel Johnson International acquires several technology trading companies.

2013Diversity program Axelerate is initiated

Axelerate is launched as an initiative to increase diversity in leadership positions throughout the entire Axel Johnson Group. In 2020, Axelerate becomes a business area within Axel Johnson, focusing on both internal development and societal impact, reflecting the company's belief in businesses as agents of change.

2015 Caroline Berg becomes the Chairman and the 10/50 goal is set

Caroline Berg, the fifth generation, takes over as the Chairperson, and shortly thereafter, Mia Brunell Livfors assumes the position of CEO. Together, they create a new guiding star for the company by setting a renewal goal called 10/50. The goal states that in ten years, 50 percent of what Axel Johnson does will be new initiatives that do not currently exist.

2019 Investment in solar energy and full ownership of Martin & Servera

In 2019, two acquisitions are made within a new industry for Axel Johnson - solar energy - through investments in Swedish company Eneo and Norwegian company Otovo. In December, Axel Johnson purchases the Oldmark family's 30 percent ownership in Martin & Servera, making it a wholly-owned subsidiary.

2022Farewell to Åhléns

After 34 years of ownership, Axel Johnson sells the iconic department store chain Åhléns.

2023Axel Johnson 150 years

The modern structure of the Axel Johnson Group now consists of four independent and separate corporations - Axel Johnson, Axel Johnson Inc. in the USA, Axfast, and Altucumulus Asset Management. This structure reflects the family's long-term strategy for risk diversification and continuity. Today, several family members are co-owners and have various engagements within the group in different leadership roles, as owners, and board members.

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