Kinnevik heiress defies sceptics with tech savvy fashion sense

Cristina Stenbeck sounds more like a Silicon Valley entrepreneur than the head of one of Sweden’s most venerable family-controlled investment groups, Kinnevik.

She speaks of hunting for technological “disrupters” and is paranoid about missing out in the hunt for entrepreneurs who have the next big thing. “Often, if they find you it’s a bit late,” says the 36-year-old.

Stenbeck is one of the most powerful business names in Sweden, heard in the same breath as the Wallenberg family or the Perssons behind fashion giant Hennes & Mauritz.

Yet Cristina Stenbeck was born in New York and speaks Swedish with an American accent, having learned the language of her father Jan only as a teenager.

She inherited Kinnevik at the age of just 24, not long after she had finished her studies at Washington’s Georgetown University, on Jan’s sudden death from a heart attack in 2002.

In little more than a decade, she has transformed the group into one of Europe’s leading investors in e-commerce, including in the continent’s biggest online fashion retailer, Zalando.

No stranger to fashion, her first job out of university was in Ralph Lauren’s direct mail and marketing department.

“That comes in handy now,” Stenbeck said at her office in London’s Mayfair district, where she deals with issues such as improving product lines and promoting more lucrative private labels as the new supervisory board chairwoman at Zalando.

“I have always been interested in fashion,” she told Reuters in a rare interview, wearing a navy blue dress, matching heels, her blonde hair tied up in a neat bun.

Kinnevik’s London office lies between the Zaras of Regent Street and Chanels of New Bond Street, while a Ralph Lauren store is next door.

Father Jan had already turned Kinnevik, which began in 1936 and built up chocolate, iron and paper businesses, into a media and telecoms empire when Cristina became the third generation of Stenbecks to run the family firm.

The dotcom bubble that sent stocks in Internet companies soaring around the turn of the century had just burst.

At first some wrote her off because of her youth; others, burnt once by the dotcom mania, disagreed outright with her push into e-commerce. But she grew into her role, and those near her describe her as stable, smart, alert and ambitious.

OUTPACING THE WALLENBERGS

Jan Stenbeck was responsible for modernizing Kinnevik, turning it into the giant behind the Tele2 telecoms group and the free Metro newspapers.

He famously broke down the Swedish state broadcast monopoly in the 1980s by transmitting from London, giving Swedes their first TV commercials and clinching rights for the 1989 world championships in ice hockey, which is wildly popular in Sweden.

Jan had made it clear early on that Cristina, the oldest child in the family, would take the reins after him and she got her first board seat at only 19.

Today she is executive chairwoman of one of Europe’s largest listed investment companies with a 75 billion crown ($11 billion) market capitalization. Kinnevik owns significant stakes in over 50 firms that span financial services, media, telecoms and online businesses in more than 80 countries.

Its share price has shot up over 1,000 percent since 2002 – more than twice the rise in the Wallenberg-backed Investor Group.

Unlike other family-run investment groups which tend to stick to what they know best, managing the same assets for decades, Kinnevik has no qualms about dumping old investments to fund new ventures and innovations. Industry makes up only one percent of its portfolio today.

Cristina, who lives in London with her British husband and three daughters, does not like to compare herself with her father but comes across as equally hungry for innovation.

It is under her leadership that Kinnevik has become the biggest investor in Zalando, a household name in parts of Europe which sells everything from stilettos to handbags and has been valued by some analysts at as much as $9 billion.

Stenbeck, who goes frequently to Stockholm where the rest of the Kinnevik team work, ranked 34th on The Sunday Times’ list of wealthiest women in Britain this year with 376 million pounds.

That figure is likely to climb if Kinnevik earns handsome pay-offs from investments in both Zalando and Rocket Internet which set the fashion firm up. Both are said to be heading for multi-billion dollar stock market listings.

TECH SAVVY

Stenbeck’s cool, measured tone could not be more unlike her father who was known for his loud, often abrasive style. But her voice quickens when she talks about unchartered business territories such as in Africa where Jan struggled to break into new telecoms markets.

“The fact that we are in Nigeria, and not limited to the fact that my father couldn’t get a license there – I love that,” she said. “These are new big-population markets.”

Pint sized Kardashian fashion

It wouldn’t be Kardashian fashion without animal print, so a new collection for babies by the three sisters (Kim, Kourtney and Khloe in case you’ve been living under a rock) comes complete with leopard-spot onesies.

But the Kardashian Kids assortment of caps, blankets, two-piece sets, jackets and dresses also plays with more typical munchkin motifs such as butterflies, stars and pastels with layers of lace, pearl-embossed buttons and georgette appliques. Tulle ruffles adorn onesies, gold polka dots dance across leggings, and butterflies flit across bloomer shorts. Designed for girls up to 24 months and priced at an affordable $15–$30, the line hits Babiesrus.com on March 14 and Babies ‘R’ Us stores on March 15.

Kourtney Kardashian took a few minutes between tending to her own children, Mason and Penelope, to tell Just Kidding about the new line.

JK: What was the first motif you dreamed up?

KK: Animal print is just a no-brainer because we love it in our women’s collection (Kardashian Kollection, available at Sears). But especially for the baby line we wanted everything really soft and comfortable. Whenever I’m shopping for my kids, I touch everything. It’s the first thing I do. So that was really important to us.

In what other ways did you put the Kardashian stamp on this line?

There’s a little lace bomber jacket with gold zippers, and our collection coming out in June is even more inspired by our women’s collection, with a biker jacket and a dress with faux leather panels down the side, with color-blocking like we do in the women’s collection. And tribal print jumps in. I had a kids’ clothing store for four or five years with my mom [Kris Jenner], called Smooch, and I leaned toward the trendiest pieces, whatever was happening in women’s fashion. It’s fun to see supertrendy pieces in supersmall sizes. It looks so cute. And it’s fun to have some of those pieces. I have a biker jacket for Penelope that’s real leather and amazing, but it’s not a practical piece. It’s really tight on her wrists and hard to put her in a car seat. So we did a version where the fabric is soft and easy and lightweight, and practical to put your child in all day. It’s washable.

Your grandmother had a children’s store?

For 30 years, yes, and she still has it in La Jolla. It’s called Shannon & Co. My sisters and I grew up going there every summer, at first hanging out, and my mom would shop and buy us everything. When we were about 8, we started working in the store; I don’t think we got paid. We’d come and hang out and help my grandmother fold and clean and organize the store. And she actually is the one who took me to the Mart [the California Market Center] in downtown L.A. for the first time to teach me how to do buying. I was about 24. There’s a children’s floor and we used to go and do the whole floor and set up appointments for the entire day, and it was really a lot of fun.

What’s life like being a working mom? How do you balance it?

For me, it’s just knowing that my children are definitely my first priority, which just makes me feel better about working. I like that in most of my jobs I can bring them with me if I want to. A lot of times they’d have more fun at home playing. But just having that option is nice. I try to just make sure that we have lots of quality time together, and setting boundaries is really important for me.

What is your most essential sanity-saver as a working mom?

I’m pretty calm in general. I never really freak out about much. And I’m pretty patient.

The most patient of your sisters?

Probably, about certain things. With our kids. With most things. I used to not be patient at all. My kids probably made me a lot more patient.

What is one habit that gets you through the craziest days?

If I’m really just having a crazy day with the kids, then I’ll take a nap when they take a nap. At least I feel a little refreshed when we all wake up.

Kirsten Dunst is the perfect poster girl for spring slip on loafers

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good news for loafer lovers, there’s a new relaxed style on the scene for spring. The backless model provides slip-on ease, avoids the issue of feet swelling in the heat and truly embodies the term ‘loafing around’. Kirsten Dunst has already got in on the action.

Stepping out for coffee in her native LA, the actress teamed a floral tea dress and cardigan with a pair of Gucci slip-ons. The Princetown slipper, which retails for £380, is an adaptation of the Jordaan loafer, brought in by Alessandro Michele as a modern update on Gucci’s classic Horsebit style.

For Gucci fans wavering between the Jordaan and Princetown, Michele is already one step ahead of you. Some of the coloured Jordaan’s feature a collapsible back so the loafer can moonlight as a slipper too.

Back to Kirsten. The 33-year-old might have been wearing her signature ditsy-dress-and-cardy uniform, but brought it bang up-to-date with those black slippers. The lesson? If you buy one pair of transitional shoes now, make it a pair of slip-ons.

See backless loafers, as worn by Dunst, as part of your off-duty weekend look. Pair with cropped jeans, a simple crew-neck knit and a neckerchief, if you feel it needs an extra flourish.Sleek, simple slippers, meanwhile, are smart enough to take to work once spring arrives. Pair with maxi skirts or wide-leg trousers and pare everything else down. Remember it was The Row who first introduced the slipper as part of the brand’s clean, minimal aesthetic. And who wouldn’t want to channel The Row, right?

Five fashion flops for summer interviews

My daughter is between her junior and senior years in college and has several office job interviews scheduled for summer employment. Ihave been working in offices for a number of years and hear criticism about how some of the young women dress when they come in looking for employment. Can you back me up? — T.A.L.

Best-selling career development author Vicky Oliver (vickyoliver.com) can help you out. Oliver says you’re spot on, Mom. The New York-based image consultant and career coach spotlights five forget-me-fast fashion goofs when dressing for summer job interviews:

— TONE DOWN NAILS. For a summer position, your nails don’t belong in the Museum of Modern Art. Four nails on one hand in turquoise and one nail in rose adorned with sparkles are too creative for most office environments. You don’t want your interviewer mesmerized more by your fingertips than by what comes out of your mouth.

— COVER UP. Women should avoid tiny tank tops, sheer blouses with lacy underwear and hemlines that show leg and more leg. For men, leave muscle tees, unbuttoned shirts and shorts at home. Cleavage, arm muscles, chest hair or midriffs work for a tiki bar, but not for a job interview.

— LOOK COOL. If it’s Hades hot and you’re walking or riding on public transportation to your job meeting, bring a fresh shirt to change into before you make an appearance. And don’t forget to keep a tissue handy to dab beads of perspiration from your nose and brow — the sweaty look translates to nervous and sloppy.

— SKIP BEACH SANDLES. “Wearing open-toed shoes or sandals gives a bad impression,” Oliver says. You look too casual for an office and you could come across as seeming disrespectful toward the corporate culture. Why take that chance?

— CHOOSE OFFICE GARB. Don’t try to make a summertime fashion statement with a Hawaiian shirt, indoor sunglasses, a backwards baseball cap or bangles up to your elbows. Avoid dressing as though you’re heading to the sea shore.

DEAR JOYCE: Would you advise my fiance who is getting out of the U.S. Navy in a few months to sign up for LinkedIn.com or for RallyPoint.com to get connected with a good civilian career? — F.A.B.

What’s wrong with a double-header? Your fiance can sign up for both of these social networking websites — one is well established, and the other is going wheels up.

The value for job seekers in joining the world’s most popular general social networking website, LinkedIn.com, is by now old news. And LinkedIn continues on its roll with a reported 200 million members around the planet.

But smaller can be smarter for job seekers who are bonded by shared experiences. RallyPoint.com is a niche professional social network startup for active military — exclusively the military community. Membership is free.

The new kid on the social networking block, RallyPoint’s latest move is the opening of its membership to veterans who are working at civilian companies, connecting those who are still in the military with those who have already transitioned to civilian life.

RallyPoint, still in beta but expected to go gold by the end of this year, is positioned to become the most comprehensive employer-to-service-member skill matching network in the nation.

Founded by two Iraq War veterans who met in Baghdad and reunited at Harvard Business School, RallyPoint launched late last year and is based in Boston.

RallyPoint, like LinkedIn, is funded by private angel investors. Although LinkedIn started a decade ago and struggled for three years to show a profit, the social behemoth clearly has the numbers today.

But RallyPoint is well conceptualized to become a super nexus for military people past and present. Its members may not be foxhole buddies, but because they’ve been where your fiance is now, RallyPointers are more likely to watch his back and “pay it forward” than are those who haven’t the foggiest idea of what it means to wear a U.S. military uniform.

Fortunately, your fiance need not choose; he/she can have the best of both worlds.

Martin Kaymer handles his nerves to win Open in shot rout

Martin Kaymer arrived at Pinehurst No. 2 on Sunday afternoon and ducked into the clubhouse with everything he could have asked for. Three days of masterful golf had given Kaymer a five-shot cushion in the U.S. Open and the needed confidence to close out his second major.

But Kaymer also knew what came with that.

The spotlight. The nerves. The pressure.

So he forecast for caddie Craig Connolly what they were in for.

This round will be very, very difficult,” Kaymer warned. “Probably the toughest round we have ever played. It’s the expectations you have on yourself and those that other people have as well. It’s very difficult to go through that, playing on a different continent.”

Kaymer knew he would face an early stretch of holes that would quickly shape his round. He knew his brain would be more active than usual.

“The challenge today was not to think too much about the trophy,” he said, “not to think too much about sitting (after the round) and what you’re going to say, not to think too much about how you’re going to celebrate on 18. It goes through your head.”

Connolly, however, was never worried. He had felt Kaymer’s composure all week, seen his surgical approach around Pinehurst No. 2. So by the time the duo completed an efficient pre-round practice session, Connolly knew all was well.

The U.S. Open was not theirs to lose. It was theirs to win.

“He was in a good place,” Connolly said. “He told me he had a good night. It was a late night, but he ate well, slept well, woke up fresh and ready to go.”

The end result: Kaymer’s lead never dipped below four strokes, and by day’s end his final-round 69 had produced an eight-shot runaway.

Kaymer’s four-day total of 271 was the second-lowest in U.S. Open history. His margin of victory ranks fourth.

His golf stroke was grooved and his mindset proved unflappable.

“He’s one of the best,” Connolly said. “He’s very good at putting the past behind him and thinking forward.”

Not once did Kaymer make worse than bogey.

During a week in which only three players finished under par, the subplots to Kaymer’s dominance were fewer than normal. But the runner-up tie between friends Erik Compton and Rickie Fowler had plenty of feel-good, even if the USGA had only one second-place medal to give out at the post-round ceremony.

“We’re going to have a fish-off for it,” Compton insisted.

With his continuing perseverance through two heart transplants, Compton’s story grabbed the galleries most. They roared for an early push that took him as low as 3 under. And when the 34-year-old got up and down for par out of a bunker from 60 yards away on his final hole of an unforgettable week, the grandstand roar shook Compton to tears.

“On every hole,” he said, “from the tee box to the putting green, people were cheering for me. … It seemed like people really got around my story. And for me to be here and to do this at such a high level is just as good of a feeling as winning a golf tournament.”

Fowler had a terrific week as well. Yes, his hopes of at least putting some final-round heat on Kaymer diminished at No. 4, where things got messy around the green and he had to scramble to save double bogey.

But after a fifth-place finish at the Masters, a second-place finish at the U.S. Open felt pretty good, as did the calm Fowler felt playing in the final group of a major for the first time.

“It definitely helps for down the road,” Fowler said. “The way I handled myself and kept going through the process of each shot.”

Kaymer, too, believes his success will aid his charge, validation he didn’t need but will gladly take.

In 2010, he won his first major at the PGA Championship, and he reached No. 1 in the world early the next year. But he went more than three years before his next PGA Tour win — at The Players Championship last month. So he heard the doubters and criticism of him as a one-hit wonder.

“You want to win majors in your career,” he said Sunday. “But if you win more than one, it means so much more.”