Tetra Laval International S.A.



Back in 1995 during my first trek through Sweden I visited Tetra Laval International's head office in Lund. Or so I thought. The reception was nice and I made note of the cannon guarding the lobby. The 24-pounder (that's the size balls it shoots) was recovered from the Man-O-War ship Kronan which went down off the Swedish coast back in 1676 during a battle with a Dutch and Danish fleet. My visit included seeing the CEO's office, boardroom and, the unusual sight of a vending machine in the lobby spitting out free cartons of fruit juice to visitors. Of course there was a reason for that vending machine and the juice cartons inside of it. This is the company that invented the milk carton and if you looked on the bottom of those juice cartons you'd find the name Tetra-Pak stamped on them. The company produces packaging along with machines that packages food products. It's big, with $10 billion in revenues, 36,000 employees and operations around the globe.

During my Lund visit no mention was made of there being ANOTHER head office in Switzerland housing senior management of the holding company---essentially the parent company .I found this out several years later while doing research. Heck, I even wrote to the Swiss office several years to see if the company might be interested in sponsoring my travels but the low-key giant took a pass on it.

Pully is a very wealthy lakefront community adjacent to Lausanne. Fronting a street less than a block from the lakefront, I find the five-story building housing Tetra Laval International. Built in 1981, it's a good-looking structure with an ice blue reflective glass exterior. Decals of birds are attached to many of the windows which is a sure sign they've had problems with birds flying headfirst into the building.

Upon walking in I could right away tell there's a waterfall or pond of water because of the strong smell of chlorine in the air. Near the elevators there's a bronze bust of Ruben Rausing (1895-1983), who founded the company in 1929. I could smell the water but don't actually get to see it since I never make it past the reception desk. I explain who I am and request to speak to CEO Gunnar Brock's secretary to find out where my letter of introduction ended up. The receptionist makes a call and upon hanging up she turns to me and says, "no". Puzzled I respond, "what does that mean?" She repeats the word again and I just stand there still looking puzzled. She dials someone up on the phone then hands it over to me. I explain to the woman on the phone what I do and she replies in a very authoritative tone, "Mr. Wolsfeld I'm well aware of what you do and I believe we've received several letters from you over the years". I explain how I did write a letter several years looking for sponsorship but now I do have a sponsor, Brandes Investment Partners. The woman replies, "Well Mr. Wolsfeld, I guess you have no need for us then." I explain Tetra Laval is one of the companies I'm visiting and I how I sent a letter of introduction to CEO Brock over a month ago. The woman, who I later find out is Meg Leimbert, says management is gone all week and that my letter would have ended up in corporate communications-who are also gone this week. Explaining that tomorrow was my last day in Lausanne fell on deaf ears as Leimbert, in her lecturing tone, assured me corporate communications would be responding to my letter. After hanging up the phone I asked the reception for the name and title of the woman I was speaking with. I was given Ms. Leimbert's name but was told they don't give out titles.

A week goes by, I'm now in Geneva visiting companies and of course I haven't heard a word from Tetra Laval. I decide to hop a train back to Lausanne for another shot at visiting Tetra Laval. The receptionist connects me to "Agneta" in corporate communications and I give her the story. Agneta says her department knows nothing about my letter. Groan. I leave more background material but Agneta says it's very unlikely they'd participate because the company keeps a low profile. She does give me a ray of hope when she says she would check and that maybe they would make an exception. Either way, she assures me (just like Ms. Leimbert) that I'll be contacted.

It's now a month later and I haven't heard a thing.