It was 1937. The Nazis controlled Germany and would soon control Europe. Two students at the Technical University in Copenhagen, Denmark, met and agreed to cooperate on their studies and course projects.
Their lifelong partnership would result in a truly great company; a flagship of the Danish electronics industry for close to fifty years.
Per Vilhelm Brüel (Doctor Brüel) short and wiry; charismatic; adventuresome; full of ideas; street smart; expert craftsman; clever negotiator; able to express complex subjects verbally and on paper in an understandable way; fluent in Danish, German, English, Swedish, and a little French and Italian; lover of fine wines, clothes, automobiles and airplanes; usually charming but with a quick temper.
Viggo Kjær (Mister Kjær) devoted husband and father; tall; aristocratic; achieved the second highest score of any student in the 110-year history of the university; shy; soft spoken; brilliant engineer and designer; meticulous attention to detail; cost-conscious to an extreme; encyclopedic knowledge of everything he considered important; always highly respected.
In 1942, Per Brüel and Viggo Kjær decided to form a corporation to design and manufacture electronic instruments. Both had experimented with the blossoming radio technology during their childhood. While it was difficult to obtain parts to build instruments during the Nazi occupation of Denmark, they succeeded with help from the resistance movement and Kjærs contacts with other manufacturers. Per Brüel sold their modest production of instruments traveling throughout Scandinavia on his motorcycle.
Following the end of WW II, Brüel & Kjær A/S added employees and a third owner, Holger Nielsen, who skillfully managed the workforce and production until his death in 1978. The companys first permanent building was a converted German army barracks. Instruments for measuring sound and vibration gradually became their core product line.
The company expanded continuously from the 1950s through 1970s. New buildings and hundreds of employees were added. Brüel & Kjær gained a reputation as a great place to work and always tried to hire the best of the best people. The product line expanded greatly under the tightly-controlled expertise of Viggo Kjær. Per Brüel qualified as a pilot in command and acquired company aircraft to improve interactions with customers throughout Europe. A fleet of station wagons, busses and trucks equipped with Brüel & Kjær instruments brought hands on demonstrations.
During the cold war, Brüel & Kjær took advantage of Denmarks militarily neutral status to establish major markets for their products in the East Bloc countries and China. With his personal charisma and sales ability, Per Brüel made it possible to meet, work with and create loyal customers in many countries that were completely closed to the rest of the Western world.
Sales and profits peaked in 1984; employees at the Nærum plants and offices totaled 2,390. The incredible success of the company led to efforts to expand the product line into new areas, some of which were completely outside B&Ks traditional markets.
By the early 1990s, everything changed. With the end of the cold war Brüel & Kjær instantly lost a huge market. Assets of the company were dissipating; their line of credit was suspended. Forced into bankruptcy, Brüel & Kjær was sold to a German holding company.
The company was dramatically downsized. Products reverted to B&Ks core technology. Product lines outside the acoustic and test markets were spun off. New management focused on profitable operations and restored B&K traditions for performance and quality. Brüel & Kjær is now a subsidiary of Spectris plc and the largest division within the Group. B&Ks product line is again heralded as the very best throughout the world.
A true and fascinating story of riches to rags and back to riches!