Ingvar Svensson. An entirely normal person from Lammhult who, one day, had the opportunity to stand up in front of Södra's Extra General Meeting. This was in Nässjö, in 1979. He stepped up to the lectern after Gösta Edström, with a speech he had adjusted on the spot.
"I had prepared a speech where I brought up how badly I thought Södra was being managed. Once I was at the meeting, they said the speech shouldn't be about the past, but only about the future. So I rewrote the speech on the spot, and spoke instead about how I didn't want Södra to be managed in the future," he tells us.
Had Ingvar not gone up to the lectern that day, perhaps Södra would look different today. A few days after the meeting, the telephone rang.
"It was Gösta Edström. I was so shocked and surprised that I couldn't have been more taken aback if the king himself had called me. He talked, and I listened. He thought my speech was good, and that's how it all started. He also sent me a thick binder with copies of the letters he'd sent to the Board of Directors, and in which he had advised the Board members on how to act in the current crisis. I still have that binder today."
The state was joint owner
This was during a period when the Swedish state was a joint owner of Södra. Which was not popular with Södra's founder Gösta Edström. During that time, Ingvar Svensson was elected to Södra's Administrative Council.
"Since I was an inexperienced forest owner, I called Gösta Edström before every meeting and conferred with him on the agenda and on what position I should take on the issues. On one occasion, a question was raised about forming a holding company that Södra, LRF and the state would each own one third of. Gösta screamed, and asked me to meet him at the service station in Lammhult so he could read the papers."
At the same time, Gösta asked Ingvar to request, at the Administrative Council's meeting the next day, that Gösta be allowed to come. Ingvar did so, which took Chairman of the Board Torsten Nilsson by surprise; he adjourned the meeting for deliberation with Mårten Benz, who was the CEO at the time.
"The Chairman came back and explained that Gösta had been called and was now on his way in to the office. Gösta came, and gave his views on Södra's financial position and the possibility of borrowing money to buy out the state and becoming the sole owner of the association again. Afterwards, Gösta contacted the meeting proxies so that he obtained authorisations from a third of them to represent them. These authorisations were (secretly) kept with a notary public so that the Board of Södra could not influence these people.
"Under the statutes, Gösta could now demand an Extra General Meeting, which he also threatened to do if the Board didn't decide to buy out the state, because he didn't want anything to do with a holding company. We know the results of these events today, everything except possibly the fact that Södra's representatives were treated nonchalantly in the Government offices when they bought out the state.
"All's well that ends well! Today, we have a Södra that is stronger than ever. The best bank for its members."
The formal takeover took place on 2 January 1985, and Södra was once again wholly owned by its members.
What would have happened if Ingvar hadn't requested that Gösta Edström be allowed to come to the Administrative Council's meeting that day? Would Södra still have been owned by the state?