Swedish Startup Space

Cristina Stenbeck On Why She Is Stepping Down As Chairman Of Kinnevik

Written by on March 11, 2016

She is going to focus on coaching entrepreneurs and help the companies in Kinneviks portfolio.
“I want to do the things I’m best at before I turn 40”, she says in her first interview after stepping down.

Earlier Friday morning, news broke that Cristina Stenbeck is stepping down as chairman of the Stenbeck family’s investment company Kinnevik. Kinnevik is the largest owner of the media giant MTG and the german e-commerce company Zalando, among others.

“After 14 years I asked myself: How can we use the things that I’m best at? With that perspective, I started discussing the future with Tom and the rest of the board. We concluded that this is the best outcome for the company”, she says to Breakit.

She has had a very active role in Kinneviks portfolio companies, all over the world, for the last few years.

“To travel across the globe, virtually from board meeting to board meeting, has been intense, to put it mildly. As chairman you need to spend a lot of time with administrative work. I feel that my strenghts come to better use when I can work closer to and support the entrepreneurs we invest in. That’s what I’m going to focus on now. That has always been my favorite part of Kinnevik, working with the entrepreneurs”, she says.

She took on the role as chairman of Kinnevik, just 24 years old, in 2002 when her father Jan Stenbeck died unexpectedly.

“I feel after so many years at a job, that I didn’t apply for, that there are better ways to use my abilities. I want to do the things I’m best at before I turn 40”, she says.

In the last years Kinnevik has invested heavily in the german startup factory Rocket Internet, as well as Zalando.

The company is now taking its next step and switches its focus towards areas like healthcare, finance and education. This work will be led by Kinnevik’s CEO, Lorenzo Grabau and the new Chairman Tom Boardman.

Tom Boardman says that he has been very active in Kinneviks strategy changes over the last five years.

“I’m not that excited right now to be honest. This is not about us changing the course of the company in any way. Cristina has done a fantastic job with strategic changes over the last years and we keep on going down that road”, he says and continues:

“We are, for example, heavily invested in Zalando, and it has taken a few deep breaths to be comfortable with investing so much in a company that is growing that fast without profitability. But it has turned out to be the right move.”

Cristina Stenbeck says that the new board changes has no effect on her ownership of the company, and that the decision has been made in agreement with the largest shareholders in Kinnevik, other than herself.

“It’s because I’m a shareholder that I want to do this. I know that this is the right decision for Kinnevik”, she says.

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