by Simona Ahrnstedt
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
In the cutthroat world of Sweden’s financial elite, no one knows that better than corporate raider David Hammar. Ruthless. Notorious. Unstoppable. He’s out to hijack the ultimate prize, Investum. After years of planning, all the players are in place; he needs just one member of the aristocratic owning family on his side—Natalia De la Grip.
Elegant, brilliant, driven to succeed in a man’s world, Natalia is curious about David’s unexpected invitation to lunch. Everyone knows that he is rich, dangerous, unethical; she soon discovers he is also deeply scarred.
Michel nodded. After all, this was what Hammar Capital did. Their team of analysts searched for companies that weren’t doing as well as they should be. David and Michel identified the problems—often incompetent leadership—and then vacuumed up shares in order to put together a majority holding
Then they went in, brutally, took over, broke the company into pieces and restructured, sold, and profited. They were better at this than almost anyone else—owning and improving. Sometimes it went smoothly. People cooperated, and Hammar Capital was able to drive its agenda. Sometimes there was a fight.
“I’d still like to get someone from the owning family on our side,” David said as southern Stockholm spread out beneath them. Having one or more of the big shareholders, some of the giant retirement fund managers, for example, on your side was critical for success in a hostile takeover this big. David and Michel had spent a lot of time convincing the managers, attended endless meetings, and run the numbers countless times. But winning over someone from the actual owning family had several advantages. In part, it would be an enormously prestigious symbolic win, especially with this firm, Investum, one of Sweden’s biggest and oldest companies. It would also automatically win over a number of other shareholders who would vote in favor of Hammar Capital if David and Michel could show that they had someone from the inner circle on their side. “It would make the process a lot easier,” he continued.
“There is one person who actually has gone her own way in that family,” said David as Bromma Airport came into view on the horizon.
Michel was quiet for a bit. “You mean the daughter, right?”
“Yes,” David said. “She’s an unknown but considered to be quite the talent. It’s possible that she’s dissatisfied with how the men are treating her.” Investum wasn’t just an old and traditional company. It was patriarchal in a way that would make the 1950s seem modern and enlightened.
“Do you really believe you can win over anyone from that family?” Michel asked hesitantly. “You’re not exactly popular with them.”
David almost laughed at the understatement.
Investum was controlled by the De la Grip family, and the company did billions of kronor worth of business a day. Indirectly Investum, and thus the De la Grip family, controlled close to a tenth of Sweden’s GNP and owned the biggest bank in the country. Family members sat on the board of directors of close to every major Swedish company. The De la Grip family was upper-class, traditional, and wealthy. As close to royalty as you could get without actually being royal. And with significantly bluer blood than any member of the House of Bernadotte, Sweden’s royal family. It would be unlikely for David Hammar, the upstart, to get anyone from the innermost circle— known for their loyalty—to change sides and join him, an infamous venture capitalist and corporate raider.
But he’d done it before, convinced a few family members to join forces with him. That often meant leaving a trail of broken family ties behind him, which he usually regretted, but in this case it would be a welcome bonus.
“I’m going to try,” he said.
“That’s damn near insane,” said Michel. It wasn’t the first time in the last year he’d uttered those words.
David nodded briefly. “I already called to set up a lunch meeting with her.”
“Of course you did,” said Michel as the helicopter started its descent for landing. The flight had taken less than thirty minutes. “And what did she say?”
David thought about the cool voice he’d gotten on the line, not an assistant’s but that of Natalia De la Grip herself. She had sounded surprised but hadn’t said very much, just thanked him for the invitation, and then had her assistant confirm the lunch appointment by e-mail.
“She said she was looking forward to our meeting.”
David laughed, tersely and joylessly. Her voice had been distinctive in that patrician way that almost inevitably triggered his disdain for the upper classes. Natalia De la Grip was one of about a hundred women in Sweden who had been born with the title of countess, the elite of the elite. He hardly had the words to express how little he thought of that kind of person.
“No,” he said. “She didn’t say that.” But then he hadn’t expected her to, either.
Simona Ahrnstedt was born in Prague and is a licensed psychologist, a cognitive behavioral therapist, and most importantly, a bestselling author. As her novels have swept bestseller lists in her native Sweden, she has become a spokesperson for books by women, for women, and about women. Her provocative women’s fiction has been sold in multiple languages as well as audio format. She lives outside of Stockholm, Sweden, with her two teenagers.