Niels Jacobsen, long-time president and CEO of William Demant Holding (WDH), Smørum, Denmark, has decided to step down after 25 years as member of the Executive Board in WDH to become CEO of William Demant Invest A/S, the company from which the Oticon Foundation’s business activities arise. Søren Nielsen, the current COO of WDH, will become the Group’s new president and CEO, with the management changes taking effect April 1. WDH is the parent company of Oticon, Bernafon, Sonic, Oticon Medical, Maico, Interacoustics, Grason-Stadler (GSI), and Sennheiser Communications, as well as other companies in the hearing healthcare field.
Going forward, the Executive Board of WDH will consist of Nielsen and CFO René Schneider, backed by a management group consisting of Arne Boye Nielsen (Diagnostics), Niels Wagner (Retail), and Svend Thomsen (Finance). In addition, the Oticon Foundation will announce a number of other management and board changes in the William Demant Group.
Niels Jacobsen. Jacobsen, who joined Oticon in 1992 and became its president and CEO in 1998, was only the fifth president of the company since Hans Jørgen Demant began distributing hearing aids in 1904. He has been a leader in the global hearing industry for more than two decades, first working with Oticon President Lars Kolind to reshape the company, and then taking the Group to its current position as the second-largest hearing aid manufacturer in the world. Jacobsen has been nominated as member of the Board of WDH, and the Board reports that it intends to elect him Deputy Chairman. Along with many accomplishments, Jacobsen was also honored in 2013 with the prestigious Nordic Board Chairman of the Year for his contributions as Chair of the Board for Lego A/S, a position he has held since 2008.
“With his business acumen, Niels Jacobsen has focused on each company in WDH being able to act optimally in the ongoing transformation of the company, and results show that he has been very successful indeed,” said Lars Nørby Johansen, the present Chairman of the Board of WDH, in a press statement.
Søren Nielsen. Nielsen, 46, becomes the sixth president of the company since its founding. He has been employed with WDH since 1995, and was promoted as president of Oticon A/S in September 2008, then to COO of WDH in June 2015. For the past 8 years, he has been responsible for the overall hearing aid business, and has had a decisive say in important strategic decisions and acquisitions for the entire Group—including as a member of the Executive Board since September 2015. According to the company, Nielsen will continue WDH’s hearing healthcare strategy, which he also helped define: To grow in all areas of hearing healthcare, including hearing aids, hearing implants and diagnostics, and to exploit the Group’s infrastructure and know-how with a view to developing the Group’s position as market leader.
“With Søren Nielsen as President & CEO, the company gets a strong leader who will safeguard William Demant Holding’s continued competitiveness in a dynamic industry,” said Johansen. “He stands for both readiness to change and continuity and has the ability to carry on the strategy to ensure that the Company continues its growth. With his insight into the industry gained over the past many years, his ability to discover new ways and many commercial successes on his resume, Søren Nielsen is the right person to manage William Demant Holding, where he is already very well-respected as a leader.”
Within WDH and the industry, Nielsen is regarded as a hard-working energetic man who knows both the customers and the employees well. He is seen as a committed leader and a sharp-witted, adept communicator. According to WDH, he will continue to prioritize the development of the Group’s culture and employees, while focusing on the customers and using technology and innovation as important tools for driving the business forward. Highly concerned with the exploitation of synergies across all business activities in WDH, Nielsen uses every opportunity to emphasize the importance of the further development of the Group’s global distribution and shared services.
“I’m proud and honored to have been given the opportunity to be at the head of a fantastic company, which year after year delivers great results—not least in 2016,” said Nielsen in the press statement. “We are standing on a very strong platform, ready to take on the competition and be part of the fast development in our industry and together with our customers deliver the most innovative and well-functioning products to the end-users.”
Nielsen holds a master’s degree in Engineering from the Technical University of Denmark. He has played a crucial part in ensuring a string of important commercial successes, including Oticon Delta and, more recently, the launch of Oticon Opn. Nielsen is married to Henriette Svarre Nielsen, a doctor, and they have three children.