Owning the Grand Hotel – The Wallenbegs, Sweden’s Financial ‘Royalty’

It was crayfish day in Sweden – Kraftskiva – and we thought that it would be a fun thing to do, to try a crayfish party. Without knowing much about how to go about preparing or one, it was late we were hungry, we decided to find a restaurant.

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“That hotel should have a crayfish buffett, the huge sign there has a crayfish,” my brother pointed, intrigue by the poster and the beautiful hotel we walked over without a second thought. The imposing building bore the flags of all the Nordic countries, it seemed fancy.

And it was.

It was the Grand Hotel Stockholm, one of the most exclusive hotels in the whole city and by extension the whole country. It sits on prime real estate, being located next to the Nationalmuseum facing the Royal Palace and Gamla Stan. The hotel is the location of choice for Nobel Laureates when they arive for the Nobel ceremony and banquet.

We walked into a wide hallway decorated with bright chandeliers, and a gorgeous floral centrepeice adorning the hall. This place surely gave off an air of exclusivity.

I walked to the restaurant, “Hi, how much is the crayfish buffet?”

“895 SEK per person, Sir” came the reply.

“Ah… and its only for today? What a pity… Thanks anyway!” I turned and walked away, this was not something we could, or wanted to afford.

I only found out later that this restaurant was a two-star Michelin establishment set up by Mathias Dahlgren, well I don’t walk in such exalted circles so I had no clue where the fancy restaurants were in this city. But I was curious about the hotel so I did what I always do… I googled.

Grand Hotels are found in every Scandanavian capital and this was the Stockholm version. It also belonged to a luxury consortium known as The Leading Hotels of the World, a collection of independently owned luxury hotel and resort brands worldwide.

While reading up on this hotel, one named popped up – Wallenberg. This family owned the hotel through their investment firm. I had first come across this name while I was in the army museum, via the World War II diplomat-hero Raoul Wallenberg, also known as the Angel of Budapest. I did a quick think, this is not a common surname in Sweden, maybe they were related.

Turns out they were. The Wallenberg family is quite soemthing in Sweden. They are the Rockerfellers of Sweden, a family behind a massive empire. At one time, it had stakes in Saab, Ericsson, Electrolux, AstraZeneca, SAS, ABB and AIK Football club among others. All these were laargr local brands. They were (and still are) financial royalty in Sweden.

The wealth of the family came from the Andre Oscar Wallenberg, the founder of what is today SEB Bank. Here’s a number of reports about the family (here, here, here, and here). Much of this has come from being solid people of substance and for frequently re-inventing their foundation.

Apart from being employers that control some 40 percent of the Swedish economy, the Wallenbergs are also big benefactors of Science in Sweden throught the Knut and Alice Walleberg Foundation.

These peole are what are called old rich and it shows, seeing as the family motto in Latin is “Esse, non Videri” (To be, and not to be seen). Old money knows that they have great power with their money and eschew ostentatious displays of wealth, unlike new money (funnily a concept popularised by Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and The Wold of Wallstreet).

Most of the Wallenberg foundation is run through its investor arm – Investor AB. The same company that owns the Grand Hotel. On hindsight, them owning the Grand Hotel is fit. The place was tasteful, elegant and luxurious but not overdone. I didn’t have my crayfish, but I learnt something new today 😉

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