The birth of Lemminkäinen in 1910
The brainchild of a group of Finnish master builders got off to a brisk start. Asfaltti Oy Lemminkäinen was founded in 1910.
“A number of individuals working in the construction industry had the idea of establishing their own asphalt and cement business in Helsinki in the form of a joint-stock company.” Those words opened the first annual report of Asfaltti Oy Lemminkäinen in the year 1910. At that time, construction activity in Helsinki was increasing rapidly. The master builders with their construction companies were eagerly building the Finnish capital at the start of the century and needed a subcontractor to carry out asphalt and cement work for them; there was no point in each builder employing labour and acquiring equipment for such work.
Off to a brisk start
Little more than asphalt work was carried out in the first year of operations. At that time this involved the waterproofing of building foundations and basement walls. In the spring of 1911, the company decided to include concrete products in its offering.
Lemminkäinen’s business went well in the early years and new builders joined as shareholders. One of them was Oskari Vilamo, whose offspring would later become the Pentti family who owned the majority of the shares of Lemminkäinen.
The war and the reconstruction era
The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 halted construction completely for some time, and the prices of building materials went through the roof. In 1918, with the conflict over and the raw materials situation easing, there was talk once again of expanding the business. As economic activity picked up, new production facilities were built.
The history of Lemminkäinen’s name
When Lemminkäinen was founded, Finland was in its final years as an autonomous Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire, and aspirations of nationhood were strong. The name of the company – Lemminkäinen, an epic hero from the Kalevala – was purposefully chosen to emphasise the Finnishness of the company.
By 1969, the operations of Asfaltti Oy Lemminkäinen had diversified to such an extent that it was deemed necessary to change the name. The name was shortened into a simpler form, Lemminkäinen Oy.
From a small family-owned firm to a listed company
Lemminkäinen was founded by a group of Helsinki-based master builders who owned shares in the company. One of the shareholders was Oskari Vilamo. His construction company had erected some notable buildings in Helsinki, such as Postitalo in the centre of the city.
Vilamo served as Chairman of Lemminkäinen’s Board of Directors from 1934 till 1952, the year of his death. His children, Erkki, Heikki and Eva, inherited his shares in the company. Erkki took over as Chairman of the Board of Directors.
In 1959, Oskari Vilamo’s daughter, Eva Vilamo-Pentti, became the company’s biggest shareholder. Later, she served as Chairman of the Board in the years 1967–1977. Her husband, K. H. Pentti, served as Chairman twice: 1959–1967 and 1977–1994. After that, the couple’s son, Heikki Pentti, who had previously been the CEO of the company, took over as Chairman of the Board and held the position until 2008.
In 1989 Lemminkäinen's shares were listed for the first time on OMX Helsinki Exchange's OTC List, and were transferred to OMX's Official List in 1995.
In the 1989 public issue of shares, Lemminkäinen obtained more than 5,000 new shareholders. Before that, the number of shareholders had been about thirty at best. The Pentti family, however, remained the largest owner. The family still owns the majority of shares of Lemminkäinen and is represented in the Board, actively taking part in the development of the company.