Crafoord, Holger (1908-1982), industrialist, patron
Entrepreneur, industrialist, financier…. The epithets are many for Holger Crafoord, one of Lund’s great industrialists. He saw opportunities and dared to invest. Gambro was one of Lund’s largest and most well-known companies. It was conceived following a random meeting between Holger Crafoord and Doctor Nils Alwall.
Holger Crafoord was born in 1908 in Stockholm. His mother Hanna was a waitress and born in Småland. His father, Alfred, was a non-commissioned officer and came from Jämtland. Holger was the only child. When he was ten years old, his parents divorced and Hanna later remarried Harry Crafoord, chief engineer by profession, who adopted Holger thus giving him his new surname.
Hanna was an enterprising person, and her first business venture was a milk and bread shop. The mother-son relationship was close, both were entrepreneurs and gave support to each other. Hanna’s goal was that her son should study, so he enrolled at Stockholm School of Economics (Handelshögskolan) where he was hand-picked by Ruben Rausing who selected talents from amongst the students for his own company. Thus, Holger Crafoord started working at the packaging company ÅR, which at that time was situated in Malmö. It proved a fast-moving career – in 1933 he became manager and accompanied the company when it moved to Lund in 1939. By that time, he had started a family. His wife, Anna-Greta, was daughter of a businessman in Helsingborg.
In addition to becoming managing director at ÅR, Holger was also involved in Ruben Rausing’s investment in milk packaging that was to revolutionise the daily trade in dairy products. However, in 1966, he terminated his commitment to TetraPak in order to invest in his own companies, particularly Gambro, where an attempt was being made to develop disposable kidneys in plastic. The idea came following a meeting with the physician Nils Alwall, who told him about the sufferings of his kidney-sick patients and how much he wanted to help.
Holger Crafoord, who had previously been working with plastic, saw this as an interesting business potential. Alwall contributed with the necessary medical knowledge and Crafoord with funds and business acumen. Gambro was a success – a worldwide company with its roots in Lund. However, the road to success was lined with hard work, travel and risk-taking.
Over the years, the company has changed ownership several times. In 1996, Gambro became the wholly owned subsidiary of Incentive. Since 2012, it has been owned by the American medical technology company Baxter.
Holger Crafoord’s talents were in high demand within the business world. He chaired the board’s working committee up until 1978, even though he had recently arrived at the meetings in a wheelchair. He suffered severely from rheumatoid arthritis.
Kulturen (The Museum of Cultural History in Lund) lay close to his heart.
The Crafoord Foundation, founded in 1980, is proof of him being a generous donator. Over the years, the Foundation has distributed more than SEK 1.5 billion to various causes.
Text: Solveig Ståhl, photo: Crafoordstiftelsen