From Nordic to global
The idea of starting a private equity firm, rooted in the Wallenberg family’s traditions of responsible ownership, was born in 1993 during a dinner in Stockholm’s Old Town. At the table were Conni Jonsson, at the time working at Investor AB, and his CEO, Claes Dahlbäck.
Over the course of Sweden’s modern history, the Wallenberg family has been the main influencer of the country’s industrial, entrepreneurial and banking sphere, partly through its investment company Investor AB, founded in 1916. Inspired by the Wallenberg family’s philosophy of responsible ownership, Conni Jonsson received a mandate from the board of Investor AB to establish EQT in 1994 with the backing from Investor AB, AEA Investors and SEB. The following year, EQT’s first fund was launched, which targeted industrial companies in Sweden and its neighboring countries.
Over the coming years, EQT continued to grow its presence in the Nordics and with a strong track record of successful investments, EQT made its first major international move with the opening of its Munich office in 1999, despite many critics encouraging EQT to stay on its home turf. By 2006, the time had come to head East, and EQT’s Hong Kong office was opened.
In 2007, EQT articulated what was already part of the firm’s DNA – its core values. Because at EQT it is not enough that an employee delivers results, the person must also do so in accordance with the firm’s values. EQT had since the start explored a number of strategic initiatives aimed at complementing the traditional private equity model – some ending up more successful than others. The purpose however remained; to build a scalable platform from which investment strategies could share and cross- pollinate expertise, networks and resources. After establishing a comprehensive advisory network within various infrastructure sub-sectors, EQT was confident that its proven business model could provide a different approach to infrastructure investing than what was available in the market at the time. Therefore, the decision was made to formally launch an Infrastructure business line in 2008, initially led by former members of EQT’s advisory network. Its creation proved to be a critical step in developing a multi-strategy platform, which soon after was further broadened with a Credit arm. 2008 was also the year when EQT opened its New York office and published its first Annual Review with the goal of increasing transparency towards broader groups of stakeholders.
2010 was the year when EQT accelerated its sustainability actions and became signatory to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (UN PRI). It was also around this time EQT established its sector teams, which enabled a more sophisticated deal sourcing process for EQT’s prioritized industries. Over time, the sector teams would lay the foundation for the thematic investment approach which is a key differentiator for EQT today.
In an effort to increase transparency and facilitate regulatory consistency at all levels of the organization, EQT resolved to manage all its future funds onshore in Europe in 2012. That same year, EQT decided to launch a Mid Market fund after seeing an attractive deal flow of medium-sized companies falling outside the larger buyout funds’ mandate.
As EQT continued to grow, additional efforts were made to attract, develop and retain the best possible talent and in 2013, EQT Academy was established. The program provides employees at all levels with structured trainings to further strengthen their skills. Today, it is recognized as one of the leading internal talent development programs in the industry. Over time, Partners at EQT increased their ownership and by 2013, they owned 81 percent of EQT AB with Investor AB owning the remaining 19 percent.
In 2014, there was a changing of the guard at EQT as Thomas von Koch was appointed CEO and Conni Jonsson entered the role of full-time working Chairperson. During the following year, EQT’s Digital team was established with the dual function of accelerating EQT’s digital capabilities and supporting portfolio companies with digital expertise and more efficient ways of working. Later in 2015, the multi-strategy platform was further broadened with the introduction of the Real Estate business line (combinated with Exeter Property Group in 2021) followed by EQT Ventures in 2016.
In 2017 EQT took the next step in future-proofing its fund management by establishing one hub in Luxembourg for future fund domi-ciliation. In 2018, the multi-strategy platform was further diversified with the launch of the Public Value business line. As EQT celebrated its 25-year anniversary in 2019, Christian Sinding, who joined the firm in 1998, was appointed CEO and Managing Partner.
That same year, on 24 September, EQT AB entered a new chapter by listing on Nasdaq Stockholm Stock Exchange. The IPO has fueled EQT AB’s financial muscles and created new opportunities for continued investments and global scaling of the EQT brand and platform. Moreover, the public setting offers a more transparent and open governance structure for EQT and its stakeholders, which is in line with the firm’s values.