By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
June 11, 2018

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When then Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg appeared at Fortune Brainstorm Tech in Aspen, Colo., four years ago, next-generation 5G networks were still a glimmer in his company’s eye. Of course 5G was coming, and Vestberg made reference to it in his interview with Fortune’s Michal Lev-Ram. But instead of dwelling on the 5G opportunity, Vestberg talked about the need to serve users of older networks, including 2G, the types of networks only poorer people in developing nations would use. At the time Ericsson was talking up a partnership with Facebook, which also wanted to bridge the so-called digital divide between the Internet haves and have nots.

Vestberg lasted precisely two more years at Ericsson, booted for an apparent lack of vision. He resurfaced as a senior executive at a major Ericsson customer, Verizon, which named him its next CEO last week. The reason for picking him, interestingly, is 5G. Verizon will invest heavily in bringing the wicked-fast Internet technology to its main market, the United States, and has turned to a spurned European executives who isn’t a technologist, to lead the effort.

It’s interesting, if not necessarily telling, that Vestberg used his onstage time to talk about helping the world through the wonders of technology. Wiring benighted countries with not-the-latest technology is a very good business for Ericsson—and also the right thing to do. Facebook’s motives are similar: More Internet users—even if not great advertising targets—are good for the international network of Facebook.

Vestberg’s impulses are in line with the trend in business today. Companies and their employees want to do good almost as much as they must do well. How companies can improve the world through their profit-making operations will be the theme of the annual meeting of Fortune’s CEO Initiative, which takes place June 25 and 26 in San Francisco.

The full CEO Initiative agenda is here. We’re excited to announce this morning that the meeting will kick off with an interview with Apple’s Tim Cook, one of the world’s foremost proponents that companies should be leaders of society. With all that’s going on in the world, I’m looking forward to hearing him address the topic.


In case you missed it, The Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Mims had a smart piece over the weekend warning against the myth of the heroic Silicon Valley founder-CEO … Lastly, I grieve the six days a week Garry Trudeau no longer publishes his Doonesbury political comic strip. Thankfully, he still works his magic on Sundays. Yesterday’s strip perfectly captures my feelings about the current political climate in the U.S.

Adam Lashinsky


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