Niilo Hakkarainen was born in Isalmi, Finland on December 22, 1927 and received his diploma engineer (M.S.) degree with a major in Paper Technology from the Helsinki Technical University in 1953.
After graduation, Hakkarainen worked for Oy Papyrus Ab as a sales engineer (1953 – 54); with Oy Keskuslaboratorio Ab (KCL) as a research engineer (1954 – 55). This was followed by 12 years of employment with Kemi-Oy, first as a production manager (1955 – 58 & 1960 – 62) and then as director of pulp and paper (1962 – 66) rising to the position of CEO (1966 – 69). In 1970 he was invited to follow Juuso Walden (Hall of Fame Inductee) as President and CEO of United Paper Mills (UPM).
Hakkarainen was a visionary leader but a controversial person. He invested in the breaking field area of Thermo-Mechanical Pulp (TMP) manufacturing technology for products such as newsprint and both coated and uncoated magazine grades. The TMP process came from UPM’s Engineering Division Jylhävaara, the talc from UPM’s own mine and much of the twin wire paper machine development was done in partnership with Valmet.
Under Hakkarainen’s leadership of nearly 20 years (1970 – 1990), he turned UPM around to become one of the top paper companies of Finland through cost cutting and innovation. During his tenure, UPM experienced phenomenal growth and built eight world class paper machines, three of them in green field locations in the UK and France. Out of the eight, seven machines produced printing grades and the largest produced release base paper line.
Other key developments included pressure sensitive label laminations, air laid papers, composite materials with paper, polymers and aluminum foil and an aseptic liquid packaging system. Of these, the label laminates grew to a world-class business. At the end of Hakkarainen’s era in 1991, UPM was not only Finland’s strongest pulp and paper company, but also one of the world’s largest.
Hakkarainen was a member and Chairman of the board of Sales Association Converta (1971 – 88); member of the board, Daily Mail and General Trust (1990); and a member of the Finnish Paper Engineer’s Association.
The honors he received included the Finnish Paper Engineer’s Association (FPEA) Lampen Medal (highest honor FPEA bestows to any member) and the C.J. Jansson Prize. Interestingly, he refused to receive the highest honorary title in business, the Vuorineuvos title (Bergsrad in Swedish), because it was going to cost his company money!
Niilo Hakkarainen died in Helsinki, Finland on July 18, 2011. He is survived by his wife Kristiina who lives in Helsinki. They have three children – Nina, Eva and Anna.