For over 200 years, Bonnier has been shaped into what it is today. Along the way, two driving forces have made their mark on the business. One is safeguarding freedom of speech and an open society. The other is finding new ways for the business to evolve.
Gutkind Hirschel moves from Dresden to Copenhagen. He changes his name to Gerhard Bonnier and publishes, among other things, an anthology of criminal stories called Underfulde og sandfærdige kriminalhistorier (Strange and True Criminal Histories).
Adolf Bonnier, Gerhard’s oldest son, is sent to Gothenburg with some large book-filled boxes. He opens a bookstore and a library, which are a great success from the start. Four years later he gets permission to open a bookstore in Stockholm, and after yet another year, branches are opened in more rural locations in Sweden.
Albert Bonnier, another of Gerhard’s eleven children, publishes Bevis att Napoleon aldrig har existerat (Proof that Napoleon Never Existed), the first book from what is today Albert Bonniers Förlag.
During a trip to Europe, Albert Bonnier’s eyes are opened to fashion magazines. He realizes that there is an appetite for fashion in Sweden and launches the magazine Stockholms Modejournal, Tidskrift för den eleganta verlden (Stockholm’s Fashion Journal, a Magazine for the Elegant World). It is one of the first of a long series of titles that Bonnier has since published focusing on women’s fashion and lifestyle.
Bonnier acquires its first property. Since then, real estate ownership has been an important part of the business.
Sveriges Handelskalender (Sweden’s Trade Directory) is published for the first time. The idea is to offer an annual about Sweden’s new and growing business sector. The time is right due to the abolition of the guild system and the introduction of freedom of trade. Publication continues for more than 140 years and is crucial to the company’s revenue for a long time – a good example of Albert Bonnier’s foresight.
Albert Bonnier buys shares in Dagens Nyheter, one of the most popular media innovations of the 19th century and a success from the start. First to come out in the morning, it is delivered straight to its subscribers, costs half as much as its competitors, and has short and intelligible articles. Around the turn of the century, when the paper hits a temporary low, Bonnier becomes more seriously involved in DN. Son Karl Otto Bonnier believes it will make a loss, but wants to safeguard a liberal press and the freedom of speech.
When Albert Bonnier dies, his children decide to set up a scholarship fund in the memory of their father. The grants will go to young Swedish writers and are handed out to this day. Every year, five authors are awarded SEK 100,000 each. Karl Otto Bonnier continues to build capital by publishing all the great authors.
Selma Lagerlöf, one of Albert Bonnier Publishing’s most prestigious writers, becomes the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature. Since then, six Swedish authors published by Albert Bonniers Förlag, and a number of foreign ones, have been awarded the Nobel Prize.
A year of internationalization. Bonnier opens a branch in Germany and buys Björck & Börjesson in New York, a company that imports Swedish books to the U.S.
Tor Bonnier, Karl Otto Bonnier’s eldest son, buys Åhlén & Åkerlund, Sweden’s largest magazine publisher, with titles Vecko-Journalen, Husmodern, Allt för alla and Hela världen.
Construction of Åhlén & Åkerlund’s new premises, later known as Bonnierskrapan, commences on Torsgatan in Stockholm. Architects are Ivar and Anders Tengbom.
AB Bonnierföretagen is formed to constitute the parent company of new industrial companies. Bonnier’s industrialization had begun during the interwar period, with the aim to control the entire chain, from pulp to printing services. During the 1950s and ’60s, business grows into areas as diverse as ferry traffic, furniture, paper cups and looms.
Dagens Nyheter AB is listed on the stock exchange. One reason is to make it easier for partners to sell their shares. The company later changes its name to Tidnings AB Marieberg, after the main business location.
Acquisition of Svensk Filmindustri, one of the world’s oldest film companies, today called SF Studios. Crime classic The Man on the Roof, directed by Bo Widerberg, premieres in 1975.
Extensive restructuring of Bonnier’s operations is underway. Industrial companies are sold or liquidated, and media becomes the core activity.
Just before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Bonnier launches the business magazine Äripäev in Estonia. As both technology and freedom of speech are limited at this time in the Baltic region, Äripäev is printed in Stockholm and shipped over the Baltic Sea. In the following years, Bonnier-published media in the young Baltic democracies become important in establishing and spreading free speech.
Bonnier buys Tidnings AB Marieberg from the stock exchange. The acquisition is a step to streamline Bonnier’s business to have a more distinct focus on media, not least the TV market, as Marieberg is an important part-owner of TV4.
Media becomes digital and social, and competition global. Bonnier faces the new consumer patterns by digitizing the company’s services. Online bookstore Adlibris is acquired in 2004. Companies such as BookBeat and KIT see the light of day.
Bonnier Broadcasting is sold. At the same time, a major investment is made in local journalism when Bonnier News acquires MittMedia.