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H&M Names First Female CEO as Former Chief Helms Board

Hennes & Mauritz has a new chairman and a new CEO at the helm.

The Swedish fast-fast chain is shifting gears, following Stefan Persson’s decision not to stand for re-election at the company’s next annual general meeting of shareholders.

H&M also named company veteran Helena Herlmersson as the new CEO, effective immediately. Herlmersson, most recently chief operating officer, succeeds Karl-Johan Persson, who will move into the chairmanship role subject to the approval of shareholders during a May 7 meeting.

“It is my desire that there will be a change in the chairmanship at the coming AGM and that Karl-Johan will take over my role as chairman of the board. It is a natural change, after 20 years as chairman, to have over to Karl-Johan, who has been CEO for more than 10 years. I will continue to be a committed owner, just as today, but from a difference position,” Stefan Persson said.

“In addition, the timing is favorable with many well-established brands, million of customers worldwide and good financial strength. We have moved from one brand to become a multi-brand company [with] nine brands,” the outgoing chairman said.

“In recent years, we have made substantial and necessary investments in our joint group infrastructure–mostly in logistics, tech, data and AI–investments that now are starting to pay off in terms of increased customer satisfaction, sales and profits,” he added.

Karl-Johan, Stefan’s son, elected to step down as CEO as he transitions to the chairman role. Helmersson, 47, started at the company in 1997 as an economist in the buying department. She has held various roles, including sustainability manager for five years and then as production manager in Hong Kong. In her role as chief operating officer, she held oversight for H&M’s expansion, logistics, production, IT, advanced analytics and AI, and insights and analytics, the company said.

“I am very incentivized and humble ahead of the task. I look forward to driving the plan forward together with my colleagues, with a focus on the customer to continue strengthening our financial development in the short and long term,” Hermersson said.

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The CEO sees “great potential to expand with existing and new brands, with new types of partnerships and to continue leading the development towards a sustainable fashion industry.”

Karl-Johan Persson described Helmersson as an experienced and great leader who “embodies our values. Helena will continue to work on the plan that we have adopted for 2020 and onwards.”

“I am very happy that Stefan has asked me to actively engage in ownership matters for the family’s private company Ramsbury Invest and that he will propose that I take over as chairman of the board of H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB. Provided that the AGM approves the proposal, I will be very happy to assume the chairmanship,” he said of his new role.

In another change, the incoming chairman has asked Jyrki Tervonen to become CEO at Ramsbury Investment, H&M’s parent company. Tervonen, who will take on his new role on July 1, has been the chief financial officer at the H&M Group since 2008. Succeeding Tervonen will be Adam Karlsson, 44, effective immediately. Karlsson was head of controlling at the H&M brand and has been with H&M since 2003.

The Swedish firm was founded by Karl-Johan’s grandfather, Erling, in 1947 when he founded women’s apparel shop Hennes. He subsequently acquired hunting apparel retailer Mauritz Widforss and the company name was changed to Hennes & Mauritz. The acquisition also expanded the firm’s apparel offerings to include men’s wear. H&M became a publicly traded company in 1974.