Featured Business Leader Karl-Johan Persson

Featured Business Leader  Karl-Johan Persson


Born in 1975, Swedish businessman Karl-Johan Persson has achieved a great deal in his 40 years of life. As the current President & CEO of fashion empire H&M, Persson has an estimated net worth of £365 million.  Whilst H&M was founded by Persson’s grandfather Erling, the appointment to the top position did not come easily for him. Achieving a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) from European Business School in London, Persson used his business background to purchase an event management business in 2001. After several years of hard work, the business established itself as the leading event management company in Scandinavia. As such, it was successfully sold in 2007, when Persson decided he would join H&M in a fulltime capacity.

Commencing at H&M in an operations role, Persson worked steadily to be appointed Head of Expansion and Head of Business Development within a matter of years. It was the initiative and drive that he showed during his tenure which lead to his appointment as CEO in 2009. As CEO, Persson describes his role as one which focuses particularly on recruitment of senior executives, pricing strategy, expansion, development of the store network, and logistics matters.

Despite the doubt of many, Persson has well and proved his worth as H&M continues to flourish. Now located in over 30 countries around the world, it is Persson’s direction which has seen the fashion retail industry change as he has made bold decisions such as using a plus-sized model as the face of H&M’s swimsuit collection. He has also overseen the introduction of H&M online, which has contributed greatly to positive sales figures. What is most admirable about his career however, is his modesty and determination, despite starting life with an enormous family wealth.  Previously spending summer holidays working in H&M stores, Persson also acknowledges that there is still much to be done in order to become the best they can be. “We always want to improve. We are certainly not perfect. There are many challenges that we need to overcome, in our own business, in our supply chain or together with our entire industry,” he said.

Aside from his modesty, Persson has also been commended for his efforts to make H&M a sustainable and fair company when it comes to the making of the garments. “I also hope that all garment workers around the world will earn a fair living wage, which in turn will contribute to stable production markets and a more mature garment industry,” he said when discussing the issue. Whilst the company has not yet achieved this goal, Persson has announced that they endeavour by 2018 to ensure that all workers receive a fair living wage.

Overall, it is clear that Karl-Johan Persson has made a great name for himself within his family’s business. Equipped with business knowledge from his BBA, he has proven that he not only has the skills to head up the fashion empire, but also to change it into a more profitable and sustainable organisation. I am curious to hear though, what do you think about the career of Persson? Alternatively, if you’d like to see another business leader featured on the AIB blog – please comment below.

This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB.

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