Bonnier News in 2016 and Beyond: Balancing Legacy and Innovation

By Robert Burgelman, Sheila Melvin
2016 | Case No. SM251 | Length 46 pgs.

Bonnier News was Sweden’s leading media group and a paragon in the nation’s cultural, economic, and political circles.  It was one of six divisions of Bonnier AB, a company founded by Gerhard Bonnier in 1804 that remained wholly owned by the Bonnier family, with 8,000 employees and operations in 15 countries.  Bonnier News, which published three major papers in Stockholm, Dagens Nyheter, Dagens Industri, and Expressen and the southern Swedish daily Sydsvenskan, faced a major transition in the spring of 2016 as CEO Gunilla Herlitz prepared to retire.

Herlitz’s tenure had coincided with momentous upheavals in the newspaper industry, the rise of the digital era, and a period of unending change at Bonnier AB. Indeed, when Herlitz assumed her position, Bonnier was “a company in a financial crisis” struggling to adapt to the constantly changing media and advertising environment.  In 2009, its flagship paper Dagens Nyheter lost more than 100 million Swedish kronor (SEK), or 10,780,985 euros (€).  However, by 2010, just one year after Herlitz became its editor and CEO, the paper was already showing a healthy profit of 143 million SEK (€15,400,217).  By 2014, five years into Herlitz’s tenure, DN was again winning awards. Herlitz went on to apply many of the same tactics to the Bonnier News business area and its properties. 

This case explores the transformation of Bonnier News under Herlitz and considers the overall strategy of its newspapers and the strategic development of its business model going forward.

Learning Objective

1. Examining how a seasoned and determined CEO can bring strategic discipline to a long-lived newspaper group faced by disruptive technological change. 2. Highlighting the vital importance of using the “runway” created by the newly instilled strategic discipline to get “lift” before the point of no return is reached followed by fatal crash. 3. Examining how a revitalized newspaper group can turn disruptive into sustaining technological change. 4. Examining how to balance competition and collaboration with cross-boundary disrupters, such as Google, Facebook and Apple.
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