History 1809–2015

The family branch of Hans von Rettig, whose interests own Per Christian Rettig & Co AB represent the eighth and ninth generations of the family since their ancestor Steffen Cerillius Rettig moved to Sweden from Germany in the 1790s to start his business. His son Per Christian Rettig started a tobacco factory in Gävle in 1809, and the firm P.C Rettig & Co was founded. Having started in the tobacco industry, the family has since been active in a range of businesses in both Sweden and Finland including shipbuilding, iron, shipping, brewing and industrial production.

1st Generation

Steffen Cerillius Rettig (1750–1828)

Steffen Cerillius was born in Hamburg, where he received his education in tobacco. After his years as an apprentice he became a tobacco master in the nearby Altona. In 1787 he moved with his family to Ringkjøbing in Denmark, where he had been called to found and run a tobacco factory. The small town on the west coast of Jutland, however, offered very limited prospects and he soon moved on. He settled on Karlskrona in Blekinge and moved there in 1791. Steffen Cerillius soon became a part owner of Carlskrona Tobaks-Fabrique and also its manager. He held this position for 30 years and under his leadership the factory became undoubtedly the largest producer of tobacco products in the city. 

Steffen Cerillius had three sons, all of whom came to work in the tobacco industry. However, only the middle son Per Christian would survive his father. Steffen Cerillius enabled the coming generation to engage in entrepreneurship. Steffen Cerillius' silhouette, featured in the logo of PC Rettig & Co AB, symbolises enabling, which is also one of the company's core values. 

2nd Generation

Per Christian Rettig (1788–1862)

Per Christian learned the tobacco trade under his father's guidance. In 1808 he was sent on a study trip to London, where he was the victim of an attempted robbery while taking a walk in the harbour. One of his countrymen, Carl Brelin from Gävle, heard his cries for help and came to his assistance. They became acquainted and when Brelin understood that Per Christian was an expert in the field of tobacco he convinced him to settle down in Gävle to start a tobacco factory there, as the city was lacking one. Brelin himself knew nothing about tobacco, but was prepared to provide investment in the joint venture. 

The firm PC Rettig & Co was founded in 1809, initially on a very modest scale, but it grew quickly. In the 1820s the factory already had a dozen established brands, of which the most famous, Gefle Wapen, is mentioned in "Fänrik Ståls Sägner". In his business partner's home, Per Christian met his future wife; Brelin's sister-in-law, Catharina Jäderholm (1783–1844). Her father had been a successful businessman. According to some reports, she received an inheritance that was used to expend the firm. In any case, when Carl Brelin passed away in 1826, Per Christian had the means to buy out all of Brelin's heirs. This did not prevent him from also investing in other industries. In 1831 he bought the Kilafors works and a few years later he started a shipyard and a shipping company. The shipyard developed into what was known as the Rettig shipyard, where many ships were built. In 1887 a major fire destroyed the shipyard, and it was closed. The shipyard was a major contributor to making Gävle one of Sweden's most important shipping cities. In 1844 Per Christian was widowed and the following year he married Charlotta Fahnehjelm, 28 years his junior (1816-1873). He had six children with his first wife, and six further children with his second wife. It was the sons Pehr Cerelius, Carl Anton and Robert from his first marriage that came to continue the businesses.

3rd Generation

Pehr Cerelius Rettig (1811-1871)

On his father's orders, Pehr Cerelius moved to Turku, Finland, in 1845 to start a tobacco factory there. The same year, he applied for Finnish citizenship as well as for a permit to start a factory. He was 35 years old at the time and had solid experience of the tobacco trade, and had undertaken studies in both business and languages abroad. The factory production quickly grew and at the end of the 1850s PC Rettig & Co was the largest tobacco producer in Finland. The position was kept until 1896, when the Strengberg factory took first place. Pehr Cerelius remained unmarried and the question of a successor soon arose. Finally, his nephew Fredric moved to Turku in 1867 in order to help his uncle.

Carl Anton (1814–1896)

Carl Anton became owner of the Kilafors works during his father's time, and ran it successfully until 1895 when it was sold. During his time, production was significantly improved, first through the manufacture of cast steel and then open-hearth steel. He was a member of parliament for Gävleborg County in the First chamber. Carl Anton was married twice and had nine children in total, of whom seven reached adulthood; none of them continued in the family businesses.

Robert (1818–1886)

Robert was the only one of his father's twelve children to stay in Gävle, where he took over the family business. After a long study trip, which took him to locations including the United States, he entered his father's business as a part owner. Already the following year he married Adelaide Garberg (1821-1892) from Gävle. During his time the tobacco manufacturing was modernised and larger premises were acquired. 

Robert was, however, probably most interested in the shipping operations. At the time, he owned the largest single commercial fleet in the country. Like his brother Carl Anton, he was a member of the parliament's First Chamber during the 1870s. Further, he was also a member of the local council in Gävle and its chairman for many years. He was also a member of many social, church and communal committees, and was an active participant in the founding of Gefleborgs enskilda bank, which would come to have a great significance for the city's economy. Robert and Adelaide Rettig had seven children, the eldest son Fredric came to take over the operations in Turku while their second son, John, succeeded his father in Gävle.


4th Generation

Fredric von Rettig (1843–1914)

After having completed his schooling, Fredric was sent on an educational journey by his parents, and studied subjects including history and literature at the university in Geneva. In Nice he became acquainted with Leopold von Horn, a young Swedish naval officer working for the French. They became fast friends and after returning to Sweden often visited each other’s homes. Consequently, they fell in love with each other's sisters and were married a few months apart. In 1865, Fredric married Sophie von Horn (1841- 1896). They had two children before moving to Turku, where Fredric had been hired by his uncle's firm. At the time of his uncle's death, Fredric alone became responsible for the running of the firm in Turku, even though his father remained the owner until his death 15 years later. 

Under his leadership, Fredric von Rettig introduced modern production methods. From initially mostly working by hand, steam engines were introduced and finally in 1901 the move was made to electrical power from an own generator. At the end of the 1800s, cigarette consumption increased sharply, and the Russianization politics also caused demand for Russian manufactured cigarettes to decrease significantly in favour of domestic cigarettes. The Rettigs were able to take advantage of this significant increase in demand and at the turn of the century were market leaders, with Beirutski being the main brand. In 1903, cigarettes became the leading product for the business and would remain as such for many decades. 

Aside from the business, Fredric participated in the development of the economy in Turku. For example, in 1897 he was one of the founders of Ångfartygsaktiebolaget Bore. Like his relatives in Sweden, Fredric von Rettig held a seat on the city council and sat for 17 years. He was named head of division to the National Board of Trade and was raised to the nobility, and introduced to the Finnish Houses of Nobility in 1898. 

He took the initiative to establish housing for workers, as well as a health insurance fund and a funeral fund. He financed the building of a city library in Turku on the condition that the city would provide a plot, which it did. He then spent many years as chairman of the board of the library. Fredric von Rettig also had an interest in history from a young age, and therefore it was natural for him to support the founding of the Turku History Museum, the development of which he supported for more than 30 years. He had seven children with his wife, six of whom reached adulthood. His eldest son Henning took over the firm, while the brothers Eric and Pontus both studied agriculture and became landowners for parts of their lives. Eric later came to be chairman of the Swedish People’s Party of Finland, and to hold a number of public functions, including director of Lantmannabanken and elector in two presidential elections. Pontus, who died in his thirties, moved to Sweden. His grandson was the film director Claes von Rettig (1931-2013).

John von Rettig (1847-1907)

John received his business education in Germany, England and France. At the time of his father's death in 1886, he took over the family business and developed production methods further. Like his father, he was head of the city council for many years and was the representative for Gävle in the First chamber of the Swedish parliament. He was also the chairman of Gefleborgs enskilda bank. His efforts contributed to the industrial and agricultural exhibition in Gävle in 1901 being completed on schedule and breaking even. John married Antonie von Eckerman (1846-1933) in 1872, but their marriage was childless. At the time of his death in 1907, all his property passed to his wife who successfully ran the family business until the company was absorbed by the Swedish tobacco monopoly in 1915. This was the end of the Rettig family's tobacco business in Sweden, which had started in Karlskrona in 1791. 

At the time of Antonie's death, a large donation to their hometown of Gävle was announced. Not only did it include real estate and a valuable art collection, but also nearly 3 million Swedish Crowns for the building of an art museum. This donation facilitated the building of the Gävle museum, which was opened in 1940. The museum was converted into Gävleborg county museum in 1978, but the Rettig art halls still form the core of the museum.


Hjalmar (1856–1925)

Hjalmar made his career outside of business. He trained as a lawyer and served at the Swedish court of appeal and was later appointed deputy assistant undersecretary. He was interested in politics and fought for the introduction of a proportional electoral system. He married Julia Björkman (1867-1944), daughter of the Gävle county governor, Carl Björkman, in 1887. 

The family lived on Villagatan in Stockholm. The couple had two children, Herbert (1888-1962) and Nils (1892-1933), both of whom would come to have problems with their health. Nils died unmarried at the age of 41, while Herbert married in his older days. He married Ing-Marie Rehnberg (1915-1995), 27 years his junior, at 54. They met when he was a patient at Sabbatsberg hospital, where she was completing her internship as part of her nursing studies. Herbert studied political sciences, history and archaeology at Uppsala. In 1916 he became doctor of philosophy at the university in Leipzig. As his health was poor, Herbert led a quiet life where he would focus on reading, archival studies and the issues of his home region. 

Following the passing of his parents and brother, Herbert became the sole owner of the house on Villagatan and he later also purchased the Skånelaholm castle, north of Stockholm. Herbert brought a quantity of items from the Rettig family history to the castle, and established a small folk museum in the attic. Herbert Rettig passed away in 1962, but the couple's donation to The Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities had already been made public before then. It included property including the house on Villagatan 3, the Skånelaholm castle and also funds for the Rettig prize and the Rettig scholarships. The prize is awarded semi-annually to a prominent or promising researcher within the area of history and antiquary, and semi-annually to a researcher within the area of philosophy and philology. The scholarships meanwhile, are awarded to students or younger officials within the field of the academy.

5th Generation

Henning von Rettig (1866–1924)

Henning studied at the university in Geneva from 1885-89, as well as in other regions in Germany and England in order to prepare for his entry into the family business, which took place when he was aged 23. He then learned all the steps of tobacco manufacturing from the bottom up, and when he became vice president of the company in 1893 he was well prepared. The same year, he married Anna von Horn (1872- 1953). Following the death of his father in 1914, Henning took over the running of the company and also became its sole owner. Henning von Rettig became president of the family business at a difficult time, just as World War 1 had broken out. For the tobacco industry, the import of raw material was the most pressing question. Connections with Germany, from where raw tobacco had previously been imported, were immediately cut off. Now it was instead necessary to try to import tobacco through Russian suppliers, but this was also difficult since use of the railways was mainly reserved for war provisions. Competition for the deliveries that actually arrived was intense, and prices shot up. Despite all of the difficulties, the company not only managed to maintain production levels, but actually increased them significantly. 

Like his predecessors, Henning was also active within politics. He sat on the Turku city council, and on the boards of several public utilities and foundations. He was also interested in the local economy and was head of Åbo Aktiebank and also sat on the board of the icebreaker company Avance. Henning von Rettig was early to see the opportinities in limestone and was a director at Pargas Kalkbergs AB, a predecessor of Partek, for a long time. Like his father he was also the Swedish vice consul in Turku. 

Henning was a keen sportsman in his youth, and made quite an impression riding the high bicycles of the day. Another one of his sports was sailing, and he remained a faithful sailor for most of his life and he supported the sport in several ways. Henning von Rettig only came to lead the family business for 10 years as he passed away quite unexpectedly at the age of 58. 

He and his wife had four children, the eldest of whom, Hans, would become his successor.

6th Generation

Hans von Rettig (1894-1979)

Hans was planning to attend the school of economics in Dresden, but the war intervened and he went straight into the family business and learned the trade from the bottom up. He learned a lot working with his father during the world war, and was well prepared when he passed in 1924. Hans von Rettig made great investments in increasing production and in the peak year of 1929 the company produced 1.65 billion cigarettes. During the years of the depression production levels fell, but increased again during the second half of the 1930s, and in 1937 nearly 2 billion cigarettes were produced. The company also continued to produce cigars, pipe tobacco and snuff, but on a smaller scale. In 1940, the company acquired a controlling stake in Strengberg, a competitor in Pietarsaari, and a merger between the companies was completed in 1976. 

During the Second World War, there was a strong increase in demand for cigarettes, and it has been estimated that up to 60% of the annual production during the war went to the military. As the case was during the First World War, deliveries of raw material became the main challenge. Although they never ceased completely, they had to be rerouted as the war progressed. During the war years, the Rettigs imported from countries including Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Turkey and Italy. During the Winter War and also following it, the company built several shelters on factory premises and in the immediate surroundings where not only staff but also residents nearby could flee to during the bombings. 

Working conditions improved considerably during Hans von Rettig's time. In 1936, an institutional kitchen and dining halls were constructed so that all staff would receive a free lunch, and after the war staff were offered free medical care. 

Hans was also very fond of shipping. In 1926, he took over a controlling stake in Ångfartygsaktiebolaget Bore. After only having sailed the routes of Turku-Stockholm and Turku-Lübeck, routes to England were introduced as well as joint routes to South America with Finlands Ångfartygs Aktiebolag. Hans von Rettig was, like his father, a keen sailor and participated in many races. 

In the 1960s, foreign competition in the tobacco business area increased, and the health aspects of smoking came to be more widely discussed. In the 1970s, tobacco advertising was banned. Due to the uncertain future of the tobacco industry, the company diversified, and during the 1970s entered the confectionary business through the purchase of Merijal Ab in Oulu and Seres Ab in Turku, and the heating business through the purchase of Purmo Tuote Produkt Ab, which manufactured radiators outside Pietarsaari. In 1977, the headquarters were moved from Turku, where they had been for more than 130 years, to Espoo outside Helsinki.

7th Generation

Gilbert von Rettig (1928-1994)

In 1979, Gilbert took over the family business. During his time as head of the company, the radical changes in the company structures that had begun during the 1970s were continued. In the 1980s, the company entered another new business area when Rettig purchased Oy Sinebrychoff Ab in Helsinki, the oldest brewery in the Nordics. The radiator business was expanded significantly through several acquisitions, both in Finland and abroad. In the 80s, the company changed its name to Oy Rettig Ab and in 1990 the headquarters moved to Helsinki. 

In 1992, Bore Lines in Sweden purchased Ångfartygs AB Strömma Kanal. In 1999, Bore Lines changed its name to Strömma Turism & Sjöfart. 

Gilbert von Rettig was, like his father and grandfather before him, a sailor and fond of the archipelago. He was also active within Turku IFK.

8th and 9th Generation

Present Day

In 1994, the company was taken over by Gilbert von Rettig's four children. The 1990s became a time of consolidation and concentration of the group's activities. The tobacco operations were sold to R.J. Reynolds, and a couple of years later it was sold on to Swedish Match. The Sinebrychoff brewery was sold to Carlsberg, and the confectionary business was also sold. The company's share in Partek, formerly Pargas Kalkberg, was also sold, but later the company had the opportunity to buy shares in Nordkalk, which has its origins in Partek. In 2010, Nordkalk became a fully owned subsidiary of Rettig Group, as the company is currently known. 

In 2012, several changes in ownership in the Rettig companies were made, which resulted in two family businesses, Rettig Group in Finland, and PC Rettig & Co AB in Sweden.