Incoming H&M CEO Helmersson attends a news conference at the company's headquarters in Stockholm
Incoming H&M CEO Helmersson attends a news conference at the company's headquarters in Stockholm

H&M’s first female boss boosts Persson fortune by $1.4bn

By Bloomberg Time of article published Jan 31, 2020

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INTERNATIONAL - Stefan Persson just got a hefty retirement gift from investors.

Hennes & Mauritz AB’s chairman, who announced Thursday he is stepping down in May, added $1.4 billion to his fortune as the clothing retailer’s shares rose 9.4% in Stockholm. 

His son Karl-Johan, the current chief executive officer, will take over as chairman and hand the CEO role to Chief Operating Officer Helena Helmersson, making her the first woman to run H&M.

The jump in share price reinforces the Perssons standing as Sweden’s richest family with a fortune of more than $20 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Persson, 72, said it was a “natural change” to hand control to his son after two decades as chairman. He said the family -- which owns about half of the business -- will remain committed owners of the world’s second-largest garment retailer.

H&M's retiring CEO Karl-Johan Persson and the new CEO Helena Helmersson presents the final results for 2019 during a press conference at the company's headquarters in Stockholm, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020. Swedish low-cost fashion brand Hennes & Mauritz AB says its net sales have increased by 11% to 232.7 billion kronor ($24.2 billion) last year “in an ever-changing fashion industry.” (Jonas Ekstromer/TT News Agency via AP)
H&M shares have gained about 10% since Karl-Johan became CEO in 2009, compared with the almost fourfold increase of rival Inditex, the owner of Zara. Long the go-to place for Scandinavian-inspired, well-designed staples such as blouses and jeans, H&M has ceded its role to retailers such as Primark that undercut it in price, or internet specialists like Asos Plc and Zalando SE that promise instant gratification.

Helmersson started at H&M as an economist in the purchasing department in 1997, and spent five years as sustainability manager. She’s been COO for just more than a year.

H&M reported pretax profits Thursday of 5.4 billion kronor ($560 million) in the three months ended Nov. 30, exceeding the 4.8 billion kronor that analysts had expected.


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