Russia expert named CEO of Sanoma Group
Harri-Pekka Kaukonen starts in January
Harri-Pekka Kaukonen, who starts as CEO of Sanoma Group at the beginning of next year, is an expert on business with Russia. In his present job, as deputy CEO of the foodstuffs manufacturer Fazer, he is responsible for business operations in Russia. Sanoma is the media group whose operations include Helsingin Sanomat.
Jaakko Rauramo, Chairman of the Board of Sanoma, says that whilethe 47-year-old Kaukonen’s expertise in Russia was “a plus” for Kaukonen, it was not the decisive factor. Before Fazer, Kaukonen was a partner for McKinsey Consultants.
“Add a pinch of scientist to that”, said Rauramo, praising Kaukonen, who also has a PhD in the technical branch.
Sanoma owns Russia’s leading magazine publisher Independent Media, so there are definitely possibilities for growth. On the other hand, the Rautakirja kiosk chain, also owned by Sanoma, has not been as successful in Russia.
Kaukonen’s appointment to the post came somewhat unexpectedly, as he comes from outside Sanoma Group, and the world of media.
Replacing Kaukonen at Fazer is Jouni Grönroos, 45, the director of finance at the fishing lure manufacturer Rapala.
“There is certainly media expertise at Sanoma”, Kaukonen says, shrugging off the question of his lack of it.
The current Sanoma CEO Hannu Syrjänen is retiring in the autumn of 2011. Kaukonen begins at Sanoma in January 2011. Chairman of the Board Rauramo explains the long transition period by saying that it was difficult to predict the duration of the recruitment process.
Rauramo says that the search for a new CEO “started in earnest in the spring”. Foreign candidates were also considered, but a good Finn was the “preference”.
Sanoma has become increasingly international in recent years. At present, 52 per cent of the corporation’s turnover comes from Finland and the rest from outside the country.
“Sanoma is above all, a European multinational company”, Kaukonen says, characterising his future employer.
“It is significant that its roots are in Finland”, he adds. It is the roots from which the company’s values and culture emerge, even though the growth is increasingly coming from around the world.
Kaukonen sees Sanoma’s content expertise to be one of its strengths.
He compares Sanoma with Fazer to the extent that both companies are strong, well-known names in Finland, while abroad, the products are better known than the company itself.
Analysts say that Sanoma stands to benefit from strategic expertise acquired at a consulting firm.
“I don’t know him, but I like his McKinsey background”, says Alexander Wisch, stock market analyst at Standard & Poors Equity Research.
“In the European frame of reference Sanoma is a small player with big dreams”, says Wisch, who expects to see corporate acquisition and other quick moves from Sanoma.
Wisch also feels that Sanoma has not been aggressive enough in its online business.
He also sees the situation on the textbook and education markets as a challenge. In Europe Sanoma is competing with giants like Pearson.
“Sanoma needs to persuade different countries to buy more school textbooks now, that states are more in debt than ever”, he says.
Kaukonen does not want to comment on the situation in Sanoma at the moment, as he is not starting at the company until next year. “I am terribly excited”, he said, commenting on his future job.
Sanoma press release (6.8.2010): Harri-Pekka Kaukonen Appointed President and CEO of Sanoma