In 1873, 29-year-old Axel Johnson, a saddler’s son, started his first trade office. Soon, iron exports and coal imports became the foundation for Axel Johnson’s expansion. Today, the family business has evolved into a company that is focused on trade and services in Europe.


Axel Johnson 

The founder
It was in 1873 that the 29-year old saddler’s son Axel Johnson started his first trading business, A. Johnson & Co in Stockholm. The basis for the company’s expansion was the export of iron and the import of coal. The coal business took the company into shipping and Rederiaktiebolaget Nordstjernan was founded in 1890.The iron business eventually led to Axel Johnson acquiring a majority holding in Avesta Jernverk in 1905. When Axel Johnson died in 1910 his oldest son Axel, then barely 35 years old, inherited a considerable fortune, a trading house, a shipping line and an ironworks.



Axel Ax:son Johnson (The industrialist)

The Industrialist

Axel Ax:son Johnson had the title of Consul General and the Group expanded substantially under his leadership. Among other things, he established the world’s first completely diesel-powered ocean-going fleet and the first oil refinery in Scandinavia. When the Consul General died in 1958, he left his oldest son Axel some 100 companies with more than 22,000 employees and annual sales of SEK 1.5 billion.



Axel Ax:son Johnson (Internationalisten)

The Internationalist
In 1958, the large company was divided into two, A. Johnson & Co and Nordstjernan AB, both managed by mining engineer Axel Ax:son Johnson. A. Johnson & Co expanded further under his leadership. He expanded the Group which now became an international trading company, responsible for marketing the Group’s own products worldwide and conducting its own trading operations in raw materials and industrial products. In the 1970s, the fruit and vegetable trading company J S Saba was formed, and an industrial group was built up in the United States, the company now called Axel Johnson Inc.



Antonia Ax:son Johnson


The Businesswoman

Antonia Ax:son Johnson succeeded her father as Chairman of A. Johnson & Co in 1982. A. Johnson & Co, later Axel Johnson AB, was restructured at the end of the 1980s when all trading in and distribution of oil, ore, metals and steel was phased out. International trading and distribution remained the base of the company’s operations but a new core business was built up within the Swedish retail and wholesale trading sectors. The acquisition of the Saba group in 1988 made names like Dagab, Hemköp and Åhléns part of the Axel Johnson AB group.




Caroline Berg

A new generation
Since 2015, Caroline Berg, the daughter of Antonia Ax:son Johnson is Chairman of Axel Johnson. Fourth and fifth generations are now working in the company and the common culture and basic values are marked by respect for people, business and relationships. The Axel Johnson group has changed shape over its more than 145-year history. No one knows exactly what the Group will look like in the future. With our shared culture and basic values, we within Axel Johnson will continue to build, transform and develop profitable businesses. And we will continue to believe in the family company as a form of ownership for good, long-term business.

A brief history

1873. Axel Johnson is founded
Saddler’s son and trade clerk Axel Johnson founds A. Johnson & Co., an agency and commission business, on Lilla Nygatan in Stockholm.

1883. Saves Avesta Ironworks
Avesta Ironworks faces a crisis. During reconstruction, A. Johnson & Co. steps in as a partner.

1890. Shipping company Nordstjernan founded
The steamship Annie Thérèse, named after the founder’s wife, was the company’s first vessel, laying the foundation for the Johnson Line.

1910. The Consul General takes over
Axel Johnson dies and his eldest son, Axel Ax:son Johnson, also called the Consul General, takes over the firm.

1928. Oil refinery and road construction company
Axel Ax:son Johnson builds Scandinavia’s first oil refinery in Nynäshamn to supply the vessels with diesel. Asphalt and road construction companies are acquired to take advantage of new business opportunities.

1958. Third generation takes over
The Consul General, Axel Ax:son Johnson dies, leaving behind more than 100 companies. Nordstjernan is endowed and incorporates most of the Johnson Group. His son, Axel Ax:son Johnson, also known as the Mining Engineer, takes over as CEO of Nordstjernan and the trading company A. Johnson & Co.

1971. Antonia starts
Axel Ax:son Johnson’s daughter joins the firm.

1979. New CEO
Göran Ennerfelt succeeds the Mining Engineer, Axel Ax:son Johnson, as CEO.

1982. Antonia appointed chairman
Nordstjernan is restructured. Business collaboration between Nordstjernan and A. Johnson & Co. is gradually minimized. Antonia Ax:son Johnson becomes chairman of A. Johnson & Co.

1988. Focus on retail
The Saba group is acquired, which includes Åhlens, Dagab, Hemköp, B&W and Saba Trading. A. Johnson & Co. changes its name to Axel Johnson.

1990. “The Good Company”
Antonia coins the term, which focuses on quality, the environment and health.

1993. Foundation for environment and development
The Antonia Ax:son Johnson Foundation for Sustainable Development is founded.

1999. Invests in high-growth companies
Novax is formed and becomes the platform for investments in high-growth companies like Filippa K, RCO, Academic Work and ApoEx.

2000. Axfood takes shape
Axfood is formed through mergers of the Hemköp chain, Dagab and D-gruppen. Willys expansion commences and it becomes a nationwide chain.

2001. Axfast becomes sister group
Real estate company Axfast is bought out from Axel Johnson and becomes a successful sister group.

2005. The fourth and fifth generations
Two generations are working together to develop the Group.

2006. New acquisitions
Axel Johnson International acquires a number of technical trading companies. Axel Johnson becomes the principal owner of Mekonomen Group. Svensk Bevakningstjänst becomes a wholly owned Group company in Axel Johnson.

2013. Diversity program Axelerate initiated
The initiative is aimed at creating diversity in managerial positions throughout the Axel Johnson Group.

2015. Caroline Berg becomes Chairman
The chairman’s gavel at Axel Johnson is handed on to Caroline Berg, the fifth generation.

2019. Investment in solar energy and sole owner of Martin & Servera
In 2019, two acquisitions were made within Axel Johnson’s new industry area – solar energy – through investments in Swedish Eneo and Norwegian Otovo. In December, Martin & Servera becomes a wholly owned subsidiary when Axel Johnson acquires the family Oldmark’s 30 percent ownership in the company.