”Saléns” is one family – but also a community of people and companies that stretches over three generations and the majority of business areas.
Sven Salén was born in 1890 in what he described as “a good middle-class home” in Borås, the youngest of three brothers. After graduating from High School in 1909 and a one year education at the Gothenburg Trade Institute, he gained employment at the Gothenburg Trading Bank, from which in 1915, he took the step into the shipping business.
Alongside his involvement in shipping, Sven Salén developed many other interests. Together with his brother Ernst he raced both cars and motorcycles competitively in Gothenburg. He became chairman of the GMCK motor club and sat a record for the motorcycle long-jump. Sven Salén also started downhill skiing long before the International Skiing Federation recognized it as a sport.
Sven Salén had always been interested in sailing since his childhood where he and his brother sailed the family’s Vättern Gig on the Öre lake close to their home and at the age of 10, Sven Salén won his first sailing race.
In 1927 he won the renowned Gold Cup in Oyster Bay close to New York, which made him a nationally celebrated yachtsman in Sweden. Sailing also became an indirect door opener to the leading circles within business life, where his friendship with Jacob Wallenberg came to be decisive for Sven Salén’s business affairs. At the Olympic Games in Germany in 1926 Sven Salén took part in the six metre class and won a bronze medal for Sweden.
But Sven Salén, who was both Chairman of Friluftsfrämjandet (an association for the promotion of outdoor activities) and the Swedish Sailing Association, was also extremely intent in making sailing more accessible for ordinary people and took the initiative to the “Folk boat”, with the ambition of creating a form of floating summer cottage. The “Folk boat” became very popular and today some 4,000 of them sail in the Nordic countries.
Sven Salén’s sailing interest went hand in hand with his interest for songs and ballads, which were often performed in the company of Visans vänner (Friends of Song) or in other parts of Sven Salén’s rich club life, where his long friendship with Evert Taube played an important role. Sven Salén wrote songs himself, that were recorded by Jussi Björling and he founded, together with Ulf Peder Olrog, the Swedish Song Archive that for 19 years was run entirely at his own cost before the state took over the financial responsibility in 1970.
Sven Salén died on the 29th October 1969.