More than 200 years
In 1765 the city of Pori, on the west coast of Finland, was given the rights to international trade. It became an important commercial port town and the roots for the businesses of the Björnberg family.
In 1781, Carl Björnberg returned to Pori from Turku which was the capital of Finland at the time. He had gained experience in running a commercial house in Turku, received permission to start trading and established the Björnberg commercial house in Pori.
Ten years later, in 1791 his son Carl Fredrik was born. He became a successful businessman during the next century.
In 1809, after the war between Sweden and Russia, Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia.
Carl Fredrik Björnberg further developed the commercial house. It became one of the most important merchant places in the town, even the whole country.
The activity was soon expanded into shipping and Carl Fredrik also invested into two sawmills and in a sail factory.
When Carl Fredrik died, in 1849, his eldest son Anton continued the business. Only a couple of years later in 1852, the town of Pori burned down.
Fortunately, at that time the ships of the company were in the Mediterranean. With the profits from the merchandise that the ships brought home, a new house could be built for the family and they were even able to assist in rebuilding the town of Pori. However, soon after that the Crimean War broke out and all trading in the Baltic Sea was ceased.
After the war the Englishmen took all the remaining ships. The war had created huge demand for ordnance and as a consequence Anton and his brother-in-law established Porin Konepaja (Björneborgs Maskin Werkstad), a machine shop, in 1858.
Anton died suddenly in 1866. In 1870 the machine shop was destroyed in a fire and the company went bankrupt.
Anton’s brother Claës continued with shipping and the export of timber. After the great hunger years, Claës and his Spanish wife Dolores moved to the new capital Helsinki with their children Ricardo, Fredrik Geronimo, Lolita, Claës and Rafael.
The successful Björnberg commercial house and businesses in Pori came to an end.
In 1892, the Björnberg brothers bought Myllykoski mechanical wood processing company in Kymenlaakso in South Eastern Finland. They saw business opportunities in the paper industry and started to develop the first paper machines.
In 1910 they bought shares in the marble quarry in Karelia in Eastern Finland in order to take advantage of the increased demand of marble for buildings. The company’s name was Ruskealan Marmori.
Ruskealan Marmori later became the holding company for the family, which today continues as Saxo. Saxo is a shortening of the latin word Saxum, meaning a wall of stone or a rough fragment of rock.
In Ruskealan Marmori the efforts were also put into the production of chalk, for the needs of the paper industry.
After the declaration of independence in 1917, there was a shortage of pulp in the Finnish paper industry. To secure the sourcing of pulp the United Paper Mills (Yhtyneet Paperitehtaat) was established in 1920.
Out of the four founding mills, one was Myllykoski with Fredrik Geronimo at the helm and also as the family representative in the new company board. The UPM board was at that time chaired by the general Rudolf Walden.
When Fredrik Geronimo died in 1925, his son Carl Gustaf continued as a director at UPM (Yhtyneet Paperitehtaat).
The paper industry also needed more and more energy and to fill that need the hydroenergy company Pohjolan Voima was founded.
During the 1930’s Carl Gustaf modernized the chalk production of Ruskealan Marmori.
The chalk factory and marble quarry were lost to the USSR after the Second World War in 1944. It was at that time amongst the most important chalk factories in Europe.
Operations were moved to Kerimäki on the Finnish side of the new border.
In 1952 Yhtyneet Paperitehtaat was divided into two companies and Myllykoski Oy became a private company owned by the family of CG Björnberg. CG became the CEO of the company.
Ruskealan Marmori became a holding company owned by CG and his children. The other factories of Yhtyneet Paperitehtaat remained owned by the Walden family.
In 1968 the Copper mine in Luikonlahti, Eastern Finland, was started. Fredrik Björnberg, with a degree in geology, moved to Luikonlahti.
Production continued until 1983 when the copper in the mine ran out. Mineral prospecting however continued and this was when the talc production began.
Carl Gustaf Björnberg retired in 1978 and his children Fredrik, Carl, Hans and Marina continued developing the company.
Saxo Oy was established in 1982. Heinon Kiviliike Oy and Lapin Marmori Oy were bought as well as Mekalasi Oy.
In 1988 Ruskealan Marmori Oy and talc production in Luikonlahti were sold to Partek Oy. Loukolampi and Kalkkimaa chalk production were transferred to Saxo.
In 1990 the stone business was expanded by buying the majority of Oulaisten Kivi Oy.
In 1995 the Mekalasi Oy subsidiary bought Plastone Oy, a subcontractor of demanding thermoplastic parts. The next year Pato Oy, the hydro plant company of Myllykoski, was sold to the shareholders who invested in the expansion and modernization of the hydro plant.
In 1999, Plastone Oy bought another contract manufacturer of plastic parts, Ässätuote Oy.
In 2000 the chalk business Saxo Minerals was sold to the Swedish SMA Mineral AB. Five years later, in 2005, the subsidiary Plastone Oy expanded its production to Estonia and established a new factory in Saue, 20 km south of Tallinn.
At the same time Saxo registered an Estonian real estate company Saxo Kinnisvara Oü, which built the real estate for the Plastone production.
In 2007 Plastone Oy sold its subsidiary Plast-Turf Oy to AT-Plast Oy and the management.
In 2011 Saxo and the rest of the shareholders of Myllykoski Oyj and Rhein papier GmbH sold the business to UPM.
Myllykoski Oyj had grown into an international paper company with production in the USA and Germany employing about 2400 people worldwide. The group turnover was about 1,5 bn euro.
Two years later in 2013 Saxo and the other shareholders exited the hydro plant Pato Oy. The company owned rapids and hydro plants in Myllykoski and Vuolenkoski.
In December 2014 Fredrik Björnberg with his children and grandchildren acquired all shares of Saxo. The renewal of Saxo started.
In 2017 the subsidiary Mekalasi acquired the businesses of Pragmatic Oy and Slangar Nordic Oy. A year later Mekalasi acquired Risto Vesalainen Oy, a laboratory equipment trading company.
In 2019 Plastone acquired Ensto’s Tallinn – factory. Further Mekalasi bought 90 % of the shares of Mediteam Oy.
The same year Saxo invested in the majority of the shares of Aina PTT Oy a push-to-talk handheld devices start-up, and in February 2020 Mekalasi acquired Pamtech Finland Oy, a specialist in pneumatic mail for the hospital and medical sector as well as industry laboratories.