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BSS alumni reach the top

During the first six weeks of 2017, no less than three Aarhus BSS alumni have dominated the headlines by taking up top positions in large international groups.

2017.03.22 | Michael Schrøder

Jim Hagemann Snabe (right) was elected new chairman of the board at Siemens after Dr. Gerhard Cromme (left). (Foto:

“What is it that these Aarhus-made CEOs do so well,” the TV2 Business newsreader asked his fellow journalist, who joined the newscast on a connection from Frankfurt in Germany. We will get back to the answer.

The report focused on Jesper Højer, a 38-year-old Dane who had recently been appointed head of the German grocery giant Lidl. In the report, it surfaced that he holds an MSc in Economics and Business Administration from the former Aarhus School of Business, which has since become part of the current Aarhus BSS under Aarhus University.

So does Jim Hagemann Snabe, who has figured prominently in Danish business news twice since the turn of the year. First, when he was appointed chairman of the board of the German industrial group Siemens, which employs 350,000 people in more than 20 countries. And just one and a half weeks later, when he was selected to take over the position as chairman of the board at A.P. Møller-Mærsk from Denmark’s hitherto uncrowned king of boards Michael Pram Rasmussen.

And indeed, the Danish business media did not hesitate to declare Jim Hagemann Snabe Denmark’s new king of boards.

Career at Novo Nordisk

Before the two Danes had cleared the headlines, a third Aarhus BSS alum, Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, had already taken the reins at the international pharmaceutical group Novo Nordisk, where he took over from Lars Rebien on 1 January. Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen also holds an MSc in Economics and Business Administration from the former Aarhus School of Business.

He graduated in 1991, and immediately after he was hired as a graduate student in Novo Nordisk, where he steadily climbed the career ladder. He can now call himself the CEO of the world’s leading pharmaceutical company within diabetes drugs.

Jesper Højer and Jim Hagemann Snabe also got off to a flying start and already laid the foundation for their meteoric careers when they were students at Aarhus BSS.

Student assistant and co-author

Associate Professor Erik Strøjer Madsen, the Department of Economics and Business Economics, tells the Danish newspaper BT that Jesper Højer, who in 2003 was employed as a student assistant on research projects, was so talented and innovative that his name naturally had to be included in the scientific articles in recognised journals which the projects resulted in.

Immediately after graduating, Jesper Højer got his first job at Lidl, where he has since worked his way up. Now he is the head of a company with 215,000 employees and an annual turnover of more than DKK 400 billion.

IT for teaching

Jim Hagemann Snabe also spent his student days efficiently. In his student job, he worked on IT systems for the Aarhus School of Business. Shortly after graduating, he was hired as a trainee by the German software giant SAP, where he built a career in the years to follow before becoming CEO of the company in 2010.

Since 2013, he has dedicated himself to his board duties in a number of Danish and German companies as well as in the World Economic Forum, which is known for its annual summits in the Swiss city of Davos.

This brings us to the answer to the question posed by the TV2 newsreader at the beginning of the article.

“If you ask them, I’m sure they’ll say that they didn’t get to where they are specifically because they’re Danish. But of course the quality of their education matters.”

Sources: TV2, BT, Computerworld, Berlingske Business,, Børsen,, Novo Nordisk, High Performance Institute

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