Last month, Italian lighting manufacturer SGM was sold by RCF Group to a consortium led by none other than Peter Johansen, a veteran of automated lighting manufacturing and founder of Martin Professional. While he was absent from the industry for more than ten years after leaving Martin, he rejoined this realm as R&D director of SGM in 2010.
As the major shareholder, Johansen has positioned the company to include LED professionals from Denmark as well as some of the previous SGM sales team members. The company’s R&D, administration, and after-sales will be based in Denmark, while manufacturing will be done at facilities in Italy, Thailand, and China, with warehousing in Holland.
Live Design caught up with Johansen just days after the announcement of the acquisition to see where he’s been and what he has planned for the new SGM A/S.
Marian Sandberg: You formed Martin Professional in 1987 and left the company in 1998 with a 10-year non-compete. What have you been doing since?
Peter Johansen: After leaving, I worked mostly in the deluxe yachting and wind turbine industries, but my first business venture was setting up Nitram Dental, “Martin” spelled backward. I realized that, by converting smoke machine technology, I could develop a product to clean, lubricate, and sterilize dental hand-pieces and turbines in a single working process. This became the world leader.
I then founded Royal Denship, a company making luxury yachts, and Dencam, which became the biggest manufacturer of large-scale milling and plugs for the wind turbine industry. After that came Lantic Systems, which provided entertainment systems for super-yachts, and some other companies, including Camcom, which made plugs, molds, and other components for the wind power industry.
Then, a couple of years ago, I was encouraged to set up a factory in Thailand, where I moved windmill blade production under the Martin Industrial Group brand. This will now become the resource for much of SGM Lighting’s production in the future.
MS: You really had no intention of returning to the industry. What changed when you joined the SGM team in late 2010?
PJ: I was approached several times by SGM’s sales director, Giorgio Radice. I had worked with him and his father for many years during the Martin Professional years. Although I had no intention of coming back to the industry, he was persistent. He told me about the challenge at SGM and asked if I would meet [RCF Group CEO] Arturo Vicari, and that’s what convinced me. Arturo was charming, successful, and extremely diplomatic, and was clearly a great man. Without him, I wouldn’t have done it, and we reached the agreement purely on trust and a handshake.
MS: Was the opportunity for an eventual acquisition apparent back then?
PJ: Maybe only in my mind.
MS: Talk about the new ownership structure of SGM A/S. You are the head of a consortium that now owns the company. Did this consortium exist, or is it newly formed?
PJ: The consortium consists of some of my key employees and former business partners. I own approximately 70% of the shares.
MS: Why did you feel it necessary to move the operation to Denmark? How does this move benefit the new SGM?
PJ: I believe Denmark is the leading country when it comes to knowledge of intelligent lighting, and it is here that I have found my key people.
MS: What is happening to the current SGM team in Italy?
PJ: Some of the key people in Italy are now employed by SGM A/S.
MS: SGM will now focus primarily on developing LED solutions. Is there a timeline for becoming 100% LED-only?
PJ: In two years’ time, we will be 100% LED.
MS: What can the industry expect from SGM in the next six months? In the next two to five years?
PJ: You can expect to see many new products based on LEDs and, in particular, products that do not exist today or, at least, do exist in a conventional concept—in other words, products nobody else produces.
MS: What would you like the industry to know about SGM that they might not know?
PJ: That the new SGM is built around some of the most experienced guys in this industry and that, despite my age, the company is still kicking ass!