ABU was founded in 1921 by my grandfather Carl August Borgström in Svängsta, Sweden in a little building that was once a chapel. At the time, the company made watches and taxi meters. When Carl August died in 1934, his son Göte took over. Göte's ambition was to build a taxi meter that was so small it could be mounted into the dashboard of a taxi (this was at a time when all taxi meters where mechanical; each had about 800 parts). My father borrowed as much money as he could from banks and friends to afford new tools and machinery, and the new product was ready for introduction 1938.
Then World War II broke out and suddenly there was no importing of cars and no exporting of taxi meters. My father went deep into debt and had no market for his new product. His choices were to go down to the river below the factory and drown himself or do something more productive. Maybe the river gave him the inspiration to make fishing tackle? My father was a devoted fisherman and the choice was easy.
In 1953 I graduated from engineering school and after my conscripted year in military service, I joined the family business. In those days, almost all sales of ABU products were in Scandinavian markets. As my father did not speak any foreign languages, it was no surprise that I chose to start working in export. You cannot fail if you start at zero! When my father retired and I took over as president, 80 percent of our business was export.

Becoming ABU Garcia
Over the years, I bought shares from my father, and when he died in 1974 I owned 56 percent of the company. In those days I paid 85 percent income tax and the death tax was 50 percent. That meant that for every 1.5 million in taxes, I had to take 10 million out of the company. In today’s market it would be 100 million or more. That would have killed the company, and my only choice was to sell. So, in 1976 I sold 80 percent of the company to a Swedish conglomerate.
In 1978 our agent in the USA, the Garcia Corporation, went into chapter 11. ABU had a lot of money unsecured in Garcia. I had promised to stay at ABU for five years and at that time had three more years to go, but I was asked to come over to try to save Garcia. That is how ABU Garcia was created.
By 1981 the company was profitable again and I felt it was time for me to take some time off to fish, hunt and sail, all of which I had not had time to do the previous few years. After six months, I was climbing the walls, and since then I have been involved in all kinds of businesses. Everything from pop-up thermometers for poultry to active noise cancellation to scanners for airports and ports.


Giving back
A large part of my heart is still in Sweden. In 1995 when I saw how my hometown was suffering from underemployment, I decided to try to do something for the young people growing up there. I felt the best I could do was to find a way to finance travel and studies outside Sweden. Spending time in other countries and other cultures is a very important part of growing up. It makes a person appreciate and understand that there are many ways of living and thinking. Since I had the privilege to travel in business all over the world, I know traveling and meeting other cultures has made me a more tolerant and better person.
We moved to Williamsburg, Virginia in 1995 as our youngest son was a graduate from William and Mary College there, so I contacted the director of the Reves Center at William and Mary to find out if they were interested in getting a student from Sweden every year. At the time I got a very enthusiastic and positive response, and now we are celebrating the 18th year William and Mary and I have welcomed a Swedish student. This has been possible from funding in an endowment foundation which I started in 1995 in addition to personal funding from me and my old company in Sweden.
Every student has returned to Sweden and has been vey successful in the professions they chose. For me personally, it is without doubt the most rewarding thing I have ever done!
Lennart Borgström

Student testimony
In the words of Tora Abrahamsson, student number 18 of the Borgström scholarship:
"When Lennart called me in the spring this year to tell me that I got the scholarship to come to William and Mary in the fall, I almost did not believe it, but I felt so happy and proud. All the hard work I had put into school during my whole life to get good grades had paid off.
I have always had a dream of going to school in the U.S. but I never thought I would actually get the chance to do it, but here I am, and it is exactly as amazing as I imagined it would be. I have met some amazing friends over here from many different types of places around the world like France, the Netherlands, Las Vegas and Washington, DC, and I am sure that we will keep in touch and meet again in the future.
To meet new people is something I love and find very developing. To meet their culture and traditions, and hear their stories and opinions definitely make me grow as a person. I have learned so much during my time here and it has been so fun to see how American teenagers live and to experience typical American traditions like Halloween and Thanksgiving. I am also very happy with the four classes I have been taking here: German, Acting, Gender & Women studies and Organizational Behavior and Management — they gave me a lot of diversity and they were all very interesting and fun in their own ways. My time here has also helped me to improve my English a lot which I feel is something that will benefit me in the future in all kinds of situations.
I cannot put into words how grateful I am to have gotten the opportunity to come here to William and Mary for this semester. This unique experience is something I will bring with me for my whole life and all I can say is that it will be very hard to leave this amazing place."
Tora Abrahamsson