Ronnie Leten Atlas Copco CEO Photo Courtesy of Atlas Copco

I think my proudest moment is that I'm allowed to lead this organization."

 - Ronnie Leten


Title: President and CEO
Organization: Atlas Copco AB

Education: M.Sc. in applied economics, University of Hasselt, Belgium

Other positions: Chair of Electrolux AB


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A Transfer of Power at Atlas Copco

In three months Atlas Copco CEO Ronnie Leten will step down as the company enters a period of significant change. "I think already from Day 1 when you take on the CEO job...that you need to think of 'next,'" he says.

Ronnie Leten is on his way out. The president and CEO of Atlas Copco AB (IW 1000/325) will resign from the Stockholm-based industrial conglomerate and the position he has held since 2009. What's next for the manufacturing leader remains a work in progress.

But it's much too soon to say farewell to Leten. He doesn't depart Atlas Copco until late April, when Mats Rahmstrom, president of the company's industrial technique business, steps into that position. In the meantime, Leten's and Atlas Copco's plates are full -- to say the least.

On Jan. 16, Atlas Copco announced it would split into two distinct entities, one containing the compressor, vacuum and other industrial businesses, and the second comprising the mining and civil engineering businesses. If the proposal progresses as planned, the split would occur in 2018. The division is a complex task, given that the company operates in well over 150 countries. Meanwhile, regular business also continues, with Atlas Copco announcing the acquisition of a Germany-based construction tools business and the divestment of its road construction equipment business in the days following the announcement of Leten's planned departure, introduction of the incoming CEO, and the split proposal.

Leten has spent most of the past 30 years with Atlas Copco and has been in his current position since 2009. During his CEO tenure, the company's share price increased more than tripled, Bloomberg reports. In a recent press conference held jointly with several Atlas Copco leaders, Leten shared not only details about the company split, but also his plans about departing. (His choice, everyone agrees.) We also gained some insights about how Atlas Copco addresses change. What follows are press event excerpts from Leten about his Atlas Copco experience, his departure, as well as his next moves.

On why Leten is leaving Atlas Copco:

"I've been doing this job for eight years...and was proud to do [it]... This is my company."

"I've said it in a couple of interviews before, if you run, lead a company like we do as CEOs, eight years and beyond that I think you have to question, 'OK, does the organization need a new leader?'

"That was also a mission given to me by the board from Day 1, 'Ronnie, you have to see that we have options to replace you because something can happen with [you], and the company cannot rely on one person. So I think I also felt that I have created options for the board ... and if you wait too long these people are also looking for other options. So I either had to commit to my chairman to do another three or four years or...

"I think this also gives me time now to bike again, so you will see me 10 kilos lighter within a year." [Leten is an avid cyclist.]

On whether the split sparked Leten's decision to leave:

Definitely not, he said. "I think already from Day 1 when you take on the CEO job...that you need to think of 'next.' I think that is really professional management. And that is also what I said to [Chairman Hans Straberg], 'OK, when the right movement is coming, we'll see. Of course you talk about that: Should we do it? Should we not do it? Is someone ready? Is the board ready? ... And I made the commitment to my chairman; I will not do anything that jeopardizes Atlas Copco because this is my company."

"I have been actually working on this [split] with my full heart."

On whether the Atlas Copco split will result in job losses:

"We are creating two strong companies...This is not small money we are talking here. Secondly, this is a growth project."

"I don't see any reason for this, that we will need to reduce resources."

On Leten's proudest moment at Atlas Copco:  

"I think my proudest moment is that I'm allowed to lead this organization."

On what is next for Leten:

"I will stay active, that's for sure. But I promised myself and also at home that I will first finish this because this is more than a full time job, so with my other assignment when it comes to chairman of Electrolux and then we will see. But I will stay definitely active. I will not be a professional biker."

"I have to make up my mind what I really want to do, and I have not done that.

"This is a full time job. If you want to be a good CEO... this is a 24/7 job and if ... you get diluted on focus, you don't get out what [you] could get out."

On managing change at Atlas Copco:

Atlas Copco Chairman Straberg said during the press event: "I think for Atlas Copco, we're showing over and over again the old saying that the only tradition worth preserving is change. We're moving forward here and that is the strength of this company."

Added Leten, in a paraphrase of a U.S. President John F. Kennedy quote: "You should change the roof when the sun is shining."

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