87. Sanoma Group

Revenues 2016: € 1.639 billion

Overview

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The Sanoma Group is Scandinavia’s largest publisher of magazines. Apart from magazines, the portfolio includes newspapers, radio & television channels, websites and cinema chains. Sanoma’s elaborate distribution network sprawls over 20 countries, with a focus on Eastern Europe and the Northern Baltic States.

General Information

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Headquarters:
Sanoma Group 
Ludviginkatu 6–8
P.O.Box 1229
FI-00101 Helsinki, Finland
Tel.: 00358 105 1999
Fax: 00358 105 19 5068
www.sanoma.com

Branches: Magazines, Newspaper, Books, TV, Internet, Cinemas
Legal Form: Public Company
Financial Year: 01/01-12/31
Founding Year: 1872 (Weilin+Göös), 1878 (WSOY), 1904 (Sanoma Corporation), 1999 (SanomaWSOY; 2008 renaming to Sanoma Group)

Tab. I: Business Performance (€ Mio.)
20162015201420132012201120102009200820072006
Revenues1,6391,7171,9022,0842,3762,3782,7612,7683,0302,9262,742
Net income (loss)116(158)62(320)182,3172,6329,7195,4236,3343,8292,5

 

 

Executives and Officers

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Management

  • Susan Duinhoven, President and CEO
  • Kim Ignatius, Executive Vice President
  • John Martin, CEO Sanoma Learning
  • Peter de Mönnink, CEO, Sanoma Media BeNe
  • Pia Kalsta, CEO, Sanoma Media Finland
  • Markus Holm, CFO and COO, Sanoma Corporation

 

Board of Directors

  • Pekka Ala-Pietilä, Chairman of the Board
  • Antti Herlin, Vice Chairman of the Board, KONE
  • Anne Brunila, Hanken School of Economics
  • Mika Ihamuotila, Marimekko
  • Nils Ittonen, Sanoma
  • Denise Koopmans, Wolters Kluwer
  • Robin Langenskiöld, Sanoma
  • Rafaela Seppälä
  • Kai Öistämö, Siris Capital Group

History

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The Sanoma media company is a merger between the publishing and distribution houses WSOY, Weilin+Göös, Sanoma Corporation and Rautakirja, as well as several other newspaper houses.

Back in 1860, when Finland was an autonomous grand duchy and belonged to the kingdom of the Russian tsar Alexander II, Werner Söderstrom was born. His father owned a printing office in Porvoo. As soon as Söderström turned 18, he took over the printing office and also worked as a book publisher. The WSOY (Werner Söderström Verlagsgruppe) was founded in 1906 and kicked off with the first Finnish series of encyclopaedias that turned out to be an instant success.

In 1878, book traders Karl Gustav Göös and Alexander Georg Weilin established their own publishing house – Weiling+Göös. Unlike Söderström, Weilin+Göös focussed on the publication of educational books. The first publication was entitled ‘Laskuharjoituksia kansakoulujen tarpeeksi’ (In English: Math exercises for elementary schools)

The first issue of the ‘Päivälethi’ newspaper was published on the 16th of November 1889, masterminded by the Finnish journalist Eero Erkko. From 1890 onwards, the ‘Daily Paper’ (such is the literal English translation) was being published six times per week. Back in the day, ‘Päivälethi’ was considered one of the most progressive newspapers in Finland and the first one to employ a female Finnish journalist – Tekla Hultin. Around the turn of the century, the paper continuously faced censoring from the Russian. From August to November 1889, the publication of ‘Päivälethi’ had been suspended completely. Shortly afterwards, Eero Erkko was forced to resign by the Russian governor responsible for Helsinki, Nikolai Bobrikov. Following further involuntarily hiatuses, the Russian finally banned the newspaper in 1904. Erkko was expelled from the country and went into exile in the USA. Yet, the minds behind ‘Päivälethi’ refused to yield and promptly founded a successor newspaper ‘Helsingin Sanomat’ as well as the appropriate company called Sanoma Corporation. Erkko returned to Helsinki in 1905 and later became the chairman of the Sanoma Corporation and the newspaper’s editor in chief.

In order to improve the distribution channels for their print products, several Finnish publishers, including the Sanoma Corporation and WSOY, started a partnership in 1910 and founded Rautakirja, a kiosk chain that would first and foremost supply travellers at train stations with reading material. In the early days, the chain consisted of 30 small shops with a newspaper boy supporting the sale.

In 1918, Finland was shaken by a civil war. That circumstance prevented the production of the ‘Helsingin Sanomat’ for two months. It was not before 1920, the year of the Finnish declaration of independence, when the press landscape began to flourish. Rautakirja tripled its number of kiosks and extended its range of sweets and tobacco in the years to follow. Eljas Erkko succeeded his father Eero and became the ‘Sanomat’ editor in chief. He initiated the development of the ‘Ilta-Sanomat’ magazine, which was initially planned to be an afternoon issue of the daily newspaper but ended up being a publication of its own in 1949. On top of his position as editor-in-chief, Erkko had also been the Finnish foreign minister in 1938. Back in the day, the daily circulation of Sanomat stood at approximately 80.000 copies.

The short spell of independence and the economic prosperity were interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. Stalin ambushed Finland despite a non-aggression pact and the Sanoma Corporation headquarters were almost completely destroyed by a firebomb in 1944. In the post-war years, the Sanoma Corporation began to licence US-American comics such as Mickey Mouse or Popeye, which became a integral part of Sanoma’s daily newspapers. Aku Ankka (Better known as Donald Duck in Germany and the USA) was granted his own comic series, quickly gaining in popularity. Up to this day, ‘Aku Ankka’,with more than a million readers (A fifth of Finland’s total population after all), remains the most successful publication of the SanomaWSOY’s magazine division.

When the Olympic Games came to Helsinki in 1952, the Sanoma Corporation took advantage of the momentum and founded its own picture agency called Lehtikuva. Lehtikuva supplied the world with pictures of the athletic mega event.

Eljas Eerkko passed away in 1965 and was succeeded by his son Aatos. His first action as new Sanoma president (and chairman-to-be) was the diversification of the media range. In 1981, the Sanoma Corporation acquired the Helsinki Television TV channel, one of the first to offer Pay TV in Europe since 1978 that could also be received via satellite. Further acquisitions of magazines and the expansion of the kiosk chain Rautakirja into the cinema business (Finnkino) shaped the company structure that is still intact today. In 1995, WSOY bought competitor Weilin+Göös. The merger between Sanoma, the Helsinki Media Company and WSOY happened three years later, resulting in SanomWSOY. Jaako Rauramo became the first CEO. 

Over the next ten years, Rauramo turned the Sanoma Group (The WSOY part of the name was dropped in October 2008) into one of the biggest media conglomerates in Europe and successfully implemented the online business. The most spectacular out of many acquisition was the purchase of the Dutch company VNU’s (Today: The Nielsen Company) magazine division in 2001 for 1,25 billion Dollars, making Sanoma the fifth largest magazine publisher in Europe.

In the same year, the Supreme Court in Helsinki furnished the company with a fine of three million Euros. The Reason: The ‘Helsingin Sanomat’ wrote about corruption and tax evasion within the construction and transport company Nostokonepalvelu in several articles between 1996 and 1997. Subsequently, the company sued Sanoma. The court ruled that the claims, which were made in Sanomat’s coverage, were false. The trial triggered a debate about the nature of press freedom in Finland - SanomaWSOY appealed. This time, the court ruled that the findings of the Sanomat journalists’ investigative research more or less complied with the facts and the Finnish public had a right to learn about the company’s dubious wheelings and dealings.

In 2005, the magazine division was further strengthened through the purchase of Russian publisher Independent Media. Besides Russian editions of Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health and FHM, Independent Media has been publishing the internationally aligned and English-language ‘Moscow Times since 1992, which strikes a comparatively more critical and moderate chord than most of the uniform Russian newspapers. Another publication by Independent Media is ‘Vedomosti’, a daily economy paper that is produced in cooperation with the ‘Wall Street Journal’ and the ‘Financial Times’.

Management

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Although Aatos Erkko, the grandchild of Sanoma founder Eero Erkko is not part of the daily proceedings any more, he remains the most important figure in the background of Sanoma. He holds about a fourth of all the company shares, which makes him one of Finland’s richest people. Erkko studied journalism at the Columbia University in New York and helmed the Sanoma Company as president and chairman from 1965 to 2001. Erkko is also regular attendee of the annual ‘Bilderberg-Club’ meeting, a conference held by influential politicians and powerful businessman, of which conspiracy theorists claim that they seek to establish a global and unguarded economic union.

Erkko is known for his tendency to voice an opinion concerning the daily and global political matters loud and clear. He often uses his newspaper as a means to communicate his views. Erkko’s opinions are frequently distinguished by an anti-American tone. He is considered an advocate of the European Union and blames the USA for erecting an imperialist autocracy on the globe. At multiple occasions, he called the politics of the Bush government dangerous, compared the neo-conservative movement with soviet squads and stated that the invasion of Iraq was breach of international law. Just how big his political influence is, is exemplified by a campaign of ‘Helsingin Sanomat’ in 1994, which played a not inconsiderable role in making Finland a member of the European Union. 

The long-standing president and CEO of Sanoma, Hannu Syrjänen will take his hat in autumn 2011. His successor is going to be Harri-Pekka Kaukonen, who had been employed by the Scandinavian candy manufacturer Fazer prior to his new engagement. The manager, who also worked for the McKinsey consultant company, allegedly compensates his lack of experience in the media business through his excellent connections with Russia, where Sanoma controls Independent Media, the largest Russian publishing house for.

Business Fields

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Sanoma is divided into four business fields:

Sanoma Media

In November 2010, the magazine and television divisions of Sanoma were combined under Sanoma Media name.

Magazines

The magazine division is Sanoma’s largest company branch. Ever since the acquisition of the VNU magazine publisher, Sanoma Magazines has been the market leader in the Netherlands and is active in a further twelve countries (Finland, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Rumania, Ukraine and Russia). Sanoma Magazines publishes a grand total of 300 magazines in the whole of Europe, including the Hungarian issue of ‘National Geographic’, the Croatian ‘Elle; or the Finnish ‘Auto Bild’. Another car magazine was added to the line-up when Dutch magazine ‘Auto Trader’ (including its website) was acquired in September 2008. The Finnish titles include "Aku Ankka" (Donald Duck), "Sport" (Sport magazines for women), "SARA" (Magazine for women over 40), "Meidän Perhe" (Magazine for parents), "Gloria" (Lifestyle), "Hyvä Terveys" (Health), "Tiede" (Science), "ET-lehti" (Magazine for readers over 50), "Kodin Kuvalethi", "Me Naiset", the Finnish edition of "Cosmopolitan" and "MikroBitti" (Technology).

Television

The Sanoma Entertainment digital media division owns Nelonen, the third-largest, privately owned Finnish television station, the program of which consists mainly of imported US-American formats. The JIM channel does have a similar program structure to Nelonen. Furthermore, Sanoma Entertainment operates the Urheilukanava sport channel, PAY TV services Kino TV and Urheilu+kanava as well as private radio stations Radio Aalto and Radio Rock. February 2010 saw the launch of Pay TV sports channel Nelonen Sport Pro in cooperation with Viasat and a license for another Pay TV channel, Nelonen Maailama, was granted in September.

When it comes to the online business, Sanoma Entertainment had been active as provider of broadband Internet and cable services (Welhoe) for quiet some time. However, Welho was sold to the competing telecommunication company DNA for 200 million Euros in 2010. In return, the Sanoma Group becomes DNA’s largest shareholder, holding 21 percent of shares. Furthermore, Sanoma operates the online gaming platforms Pelikone.fi and Älypää. In March 2010, the latter had been the subject of Finland’s arguably most severe data protection scandal to date: Hacker stole the usernames and passwords of 120,000 Älypää users and published the same on the Internet. In 2008, the company purchased about 70 percent of NetInfo.BG, the leading Bulgarian online company, which includes Bulgaria’s most popular web portal Gbg.bg.

Sanoma News

Sanoma News is the company’s newspaper division, operating in Finland only. The most important publication is the ‘Helsingin Sanomat’ (called ‘Hesari’ in common parlance), Scandinavia’s biggest daily newspapers. The circulation stands at about 500,000 sold copies. One of the newspaper’s key characteristics is the concept of ‘Hyperlocalism’. The readers are being integrated into the choice of topics and the design first and foremost through the online issue of the newspaper. The goal is to create a community of readers in Helsinki that is capable of navigating within the socio-political landscape.

The boulevard equivalent to ‘Hesari’ is the ‘Itla-Sanomat’ tabloid, which is published in tabloid format and is primarily concerned with society topics as well as sport and sport bets. Sanoma also published a free paper in Helsinki. The ‘Metro’ is distributed free of charge within the urban short-distance traffic network. The ‘Metro’ design was completely overhauled in 2010, courtesy of one Al Trevino, who had been responsible for the ‘Sunday Times’ relaunch and the ‘New York Times’ weekend edition.

Other daily newspapers by Sanoma News: „Etelä-Saimaa“, „Kouvolan Sanomat“, „Kymen Sanomat“, „Uutisvuoksi“.

Sanoma also operates the ‘Radio Helsinki’ radio station. In regards to the online segment, the Sanoma subsidiary Sanoma Digital is responsible for the online marketplaces Oikotie.fi, Kuldnebors.ee and Auto24.ee (Cars, with the latter being for the Estonian market), Huutu.net (Auction platform), Keltainenporssi.fi (Car Accessories and Electronics) and Hintaseuranta.fi (Consumer electronics). Taloussanomat.fi, Itviikko.fi and Digitoday.fi focus on economic information. Other Internet services are Tyylitaivas.fi, Blogilista.fi (Fashion & Design), Foody.fi (Food and Drink) as well Glossy.fi and Puuhaamo.fi (Cosmetics).

In September 2008, Sanoma also acquired the online real estate platform Igglo, followed by the Offerium website in 2011 that – alike the market leader Groupon – published new offers and vouchers for various goods on a daily basis.

Sanoma Learning & Literature

The book division of Sanoma is Finland’s leading publishing house for literature of all kind. For the most part, the ‘Education and books’ division publishes schoolbooks and scientific literature in Belgium, Denmark, Hungary, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Sweden. AAC Global, a ‘globalisation service provider’ (Translations, language courses, International communication and International management seminars), active in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Great Britain, Russia and China, is also part of Sanoma’s book division. The Polish E-Learning platform Young Digital Planet (YDP), of which Sanoma had been holding 55 percent of shares ever since 1999, was taken over completely in 2010.

Sanoma Trade
Sanoma Trade operates various kiosks and newspaper („R-kioski“) as well as book stores („Suomalainen Kirjakauppa“) in the Netherlands, Eastern Europe and the Baltic states. The cinema segment Finnkino was sold to a Swedish private equity company in April 2011 for 116 million Euros.

 

Content

Institute of Media and Communications Policy

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Media Pluralism in Europe

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Partners

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Mediadb.eu is funded by medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg,

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the Open Society Foundations' Media Program,

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Germany's Federal Agency for Civic Education,

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the Rudolf Augstein Foundation,

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the city of Cologne, Germany,

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and the State of Thuringia, Department of Commerce.