Perspectives from ISB

A.P. Moller–Maersk Group, also known as Maersk, is a Danish business conglomerate based in Copenhagen, Denmark, with subsidiaries and offices in more than 135 countries worldwide and around 89,000 employees. It has been the largest container ship operator and supply vessel operator in the world since 1996. The company was founded by Captain Peter Mærsk-Møller and his son Arnold Peter Møller in 1904. The second child of Arnold, Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller became the CEO of the company on the death of his father and held this post until 1993.

 Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller died in 2012 aged 98. Since his death the influence of his family in the company has seemed to wane. Now as the container industry is in crisis with freight rates having slid to record lows, causing the industry’s biggest ever collapse, the founding family is reasserting itself. Last month, Hanjin Shipping, the world’s seventh largest container shipping line, filed for bankruptcy. Maersk Line, the industry’s most profitable participant, also lost money in the second quarter.

 Hence, driven by the family, Maersk is on the verge of taking its biggest strategic decision in decades – to break itself up. The proposed plan is to split Maersk in two: a new transport and logistics business that will form the core of the company, and an energy unit that could be spun off, sold, or used for joint ventures. The division will ensure that Maersk would remain a conglomerate; however a more firmly focused one.

The family has continued to have a voice in the boardroom through Ane Uggla, the 68-year-old daughter of Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller. She also serves as Maersk vice-chairman as well as chair of the main family foundation. At the start of this month one of her sons, Robert, became chief executive of AP Moller Holding, Maersk’s controlling shareholder with 51 per cent of the votes. Analysts view this strategic change as the long term vision of the family for this company and the first signs of the new generation acting as an engaged owner.