Since the late nineteenth century, the Wallenberg family has been Sweden's preeminent financial and industrial dynasty. The family's climb to wealth and power began when Andre Oscar (A. O.) Wallenberg (1816–1886), the son of a Lutheran bishop, founded Stockholm's Enskilda Bank (SEB) in 1856. Since then, family leadership has been vested in the male succession of one branch of the family. In 2004 the fifth generation leadership consisted of the cousins Jacob and Marcus Wallenberg, both born in 1956.
The family has been heavily involved in international business. SEB was an important participant in the importation of foreign capital that was crucial for pre-World War I Swedish economic development, in particular for the construction of railways. Later the family played a key role in the development of Sweden's major export industries, especially the export of engineering products.
By no means the wealthiest of Swedish families, the Wallenbergs have maintained control over their dominant industrial sphere thanks to the judicious utilization of the SEB (since a 1972 merger, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken), holding companies, family controlled foundations, and shares with disparate voting power. The family is renowned for its selection of capable and loyal corporate executives. Despite their private opinions, family leaders have consistently cooperated with the Social Democratic governments that have dominated Sweden since 1932.
Raoul Wallenberg (1912–?), the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from Nazi death camps before himself vanishing into the Soviet gulag, belongs to the fourth generation of a non-leadership branch of the family.
SEE ALSO Sweden.
Lindgren, Hakan. Aktivt agande: Investor under vaxlande kunjukturer. With an extensive summary in English. Stockholm: Institute for Research in Economic History at the Stockholm School of Economics, 1994.
Olsson, Ulf. At the Centre of Development: Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken and Its Predecessors, 1856–1996. Stockholm: SE-Banken, 1997.
Olsson, Ulf. Furthering a Fortune. Marcus Wallenberg: Swedish Banker and Industrialist 1899–1982. Stockholm: Ekerlids Forlag, 2000.
Lars G. Sandberg