Our Corporate History

The early years – European expansion

1964: Egon P.S. Zehnder opens the first office in Zurich
1968: Opening of the Paris and Brussels offices
1970: Opening of the Copenhagen and London offices

Realizing that the only way to overcome the resistance encountered by executive search in Europe was to adopt an entirely professional approach marked by absolute discretion, Egon P.S. Zehnder decided in 1964 to found his own firm. The corporate goal was to offer not high-speed headhunting, but a professional, systematic search for the best candidate for the needs of each individual client.

In the first four years of its existence, Egon Zehnder (formerly Egon Zehnder International) operated out of the Zurich office, which was staffed by a handful of consultants. Profits were plowed back into the firm to enable new consultants to be recruited. Gradually, the firm’s consulting activities expanded throughout Europe, resulting in the founding of eight European offices by the late 1970s.

Growth phase – Mirroring international markets

1971: Opening of the Tokyo office, the first outside Europe
1975: Opening of the first Latin American office in São Paulo
1978: Founder Egon P.S. Zehnder turns the firm into an international partnership

Over the years, the firm’s demand-led expansion became a reliable mirror of market developments around the world. The opening of Egon Zehnder’s Tokyo office in 1971, the first outside Europe, reflected the opening of the Japanese market to the West. The inauguration of new offices in São Paulo (1975), Mexico City (1982) and Buenos Aires (1984) paralleled the advent of market economics in a large number of South American countries, a pattern that would be repeated in the early 1990s as new offices were opened in the capital cities of former Eastern Bloc states, including Budapest and Prague in 1992. In 1978, Egon P.S. Zehnder decided to transform the fast-growing firm in which he was then majority shareholder, Chairman and CEO, into an international partnership.

From minor supplier to global player – Spreading across the USA and into Africa

1977: Opening of the first U.S. office in New York
1981: Opening of the second U.S. office in Chicago
2000: Opening of the Miami office as the ninth in the USA
2012: Opening of the Johannesburg office, the firm’s first in Africa

With the onset of globalization, executive search took on worldwide scope. The clearest sign of this development at Egon Zehnder was the decision at the end of the 1980s to take the firm’s presence in the USA to a new level. Following the opening of the New York office in 1977, the firm strengthened its U.S. presence with the inauguration of eight other offices between 1981 and 2000. Since the late 1990s, Egon Zehnder has ranked alongside its U.S. competitors in terms of worldwide revenues. The firm continued to expand globally, reaching 56 offices in 36 countries by the end of 2000.

In 2012, Egon Zehnder reached another milestone – its first permanent presence in Africa – with the opening of an office in Johannesburg. By 2014 Egon Zehnder had 68 offices in 41 countries around the world.

Leveraging expertise – New practice group structures

1994: Launch of the Management Appraisal practice
1994: Acquisition of PRO NED, launch of the Board Consulting practice
1996: Formalization of sector practice groups

In the late 1980s Egon Zehnder became the first executive search firm to undertake Management Appraisals. In 1992, the first large-scale Management Appraisal was conducted for the telecom industry in Argentina. Against the backdrop of rapidly increasing demand, the Management Appraisal practice group, since renamed Leadership Strategy Services, was rapidly set up to leverage the firm’s expertise in this field. Similarly, in 1995 the firm responded to its clients’ growing needs for board services with the acquisition of PRO NED, an organization originally set up by the Bank of England to promote the appointment of professional directors. This proved a decisive step in the development of the firm’s Board Consulting practice. In the late 1980s, a number of informal sector practice groups began serving as exchange platforms for industry-specific knowledge. In 1996, a more formalized structure was introduced, resulting by early 1998 in the creation of the Financial Services, Technology and Communications, Life Sciences and Consumer practice groups. In the course of the next few years, the Industrial, Services, Private Capital and Sovereign Wealth Funds practice groups were created in response to the specific needs of clients in these areas.

Succession and renewal

2000: Founder Egon P.S. Zehnder retires, A. Daniel Meiland elected Chairman
2003: Opening of the Seoul office
2005: Opening of the Dubai office
2006: John J. Grumbar elected Chairman
2010: Damien O’Brien elected Chairman

Long before he considered his own personal retirement from day-to-day business, Egon P.S. Zehnder was driven by the desire to transform the firm he had founded into an institution marked by dynamic growth and continuous development. In 1992, Zehnder chose A. Daniel Meiland to succeed him as CEO. In 2000, when Zehnder also stepped down as Chairman, the partners elected Meiland to succeed him. In 2002, Dan Meiland appointed John J. Grumbar as CEO and when Meiland retired in 2006, Grumbar was elected to succeed him as Chairman. In 2008, John Grumbar appointed Damien O’Brien as CEO and two years later O’Brien was elected Chairman upon Grumbar’s retirement. In 2014, Damien O’Brien appointed Rajeev Vasudeva as CEO.

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