ABBA-cadabra!

it's no illusion - one of the richest corporations in sweden is a rock group

By Peter S. Greenburg

A little more than six years ago, an unknown Swedish group called ABBA swept to the top of the international charts with a tune called Waterloo. By 1978, the quartet had sold more than 50,000,000 records, outpacing every other group, including the Beatles.

Now, with more than 100,000,000 records, albums, tapes and cassettes sold, ABBA is becoming nothing short of a multinational corporation. And, as music groups go, it clearly ranks as one of the richest. In fact, a look at the profit picture alone shows that ABBA is now one of the richest corporations in Sweden.

Before ABBA ever got big, says manager Stig Anderson, 49, affiliated with the group since 1964, we had a plan to handle the money. The plan was simple: For the first time in the history of pop music, we wanted it all under one umbrella. We wrote our own songs, had our own publicity company and our own record company and we were our own artists. Essentially, we had 100 percent of what we could get.

Anderson's battle plan called for the group to remain in Sweden and still maintain total world-wide control of its record sales, market by market. As a result, the group is on different labels in different countries. We decided to remain in Sweden because the group lived living there, says Anderson, Other wise, the volume of money and the tax situation would have forced us to move to Monaco or Luxembourg. Once we decided to stay, the plan was to save as much money as possible. We couldn't take our much money as individuals, because wee would have been taxed at 85 percent.

So Anderson started a company, Polar Music International, a vehicle for the group to shelter thousands of Swedish kroner. It wasn't long before the thousands mushroomed into millions. Moving quickly, Anderson decided to diversify the company's investments outside the music business. Our problem, he recalls. was that there was too much money coming in.

Before long, ABBA became one of Scandinavia's largest venture capitalists, The group acquired A. H. Grafik, one of the largest art galleries in Stockholm. In addition to sales of paintings and lithographs through the world, ABBA has been pioneering the very lucrative concept of leasing the artwork to corporations and selling to wealthy individuals who need tax deductions.

Next on the shopping list was oil. The group formed Pol Oil, an oil-importing company operating in the hectic and mercurial spot-oil market in Rotterdam.

Then there's Invest-Finans, the fourth and largest ABBA corporation, which leases big machines. We lease out everything from sophisticated computers to giant farm combines, says Anderson. Although Invest-Finans is less than two years old, revenues are already nearing an incredible 10,000,000 kronor per year.

ABBA, of course, has its own computer to provide daily graphs and breakdowns of these corporations, as well as of the music-publishing enterprises, record companies and real-estate investments. (At last count, ABBA boasted ownership in dozens of commercial and residential real estate throughout Sweden. The group also owns the Sports Palace in Stockholm, once a giant swimming arena now converted to ABBA's state-of-the-art recording studio.

Naturally, such an investment-oriented group couldn't pass up the profit opportunities of the Swedish stock market - ABBA is the biggest shareholder in the largest bicycle manufacturer in the country. Since the energy crisis, people are buying more bicycles, says Anderson, so we decided to play it safe and invest in that, too.

The money is rolling in at such a pace that Anderson has plans for real-estate purchases in other European countries and in the United States, to include ABBA's own production companies in Los Angeles, London and New York.

This may sound funny, Anderson says, but we're just building this empire up. I have a dream that within two years, we'll consolidate the whole operations and ABBA will be traded on the Swedish stock market. Transcribed for ABBA World

Playboy (USA) vol. 28, no. 1 january 1981 (page 268)


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