Bertil Hult, born 1941, is a Swedish business man who founded the educational and language school company, EF Education First, in 1965. In 1971, he moved from Sweden to Germany, and in 1977, he established EF's head office in Lucerne, Switzerland, where he now lives. He served as the company's CEO until 2002 and as chairman until 2008. Today, he is semi-retired. His two oldest sons, Philip Hult and Alex Hult, now serve as the company's co-chairmen and his third son, Edward Hult, is the CEO of EF Educational Tours. Under Bertil Hult's supervision, EF grew to a multi-billion dollar corporation with more than 37,000 employees in 52 countries.
Early life and education
Bertil Hult was born in Stockholm. He has spoken frequently about his struggles with dyslexia as a child. He dropped out of school after junior high and worked making coffee and running errands for a ship broker in London. He learned to speak English during this time and became convinced that immersion is the best way to learn a language. After returning to Sweden and taking up his studies again, he entered Lund University, then dropped out after one year.
Bertil Hult founded EF Education First at the age of 23, in the basement of his university dormitory in Lund, Sweden. He started EF as a language study and travel abroad organization, initially for Swedish high school students going to England to learn English. His childhood struggles with dyslexia convinced him that cultural immersion was a superior way to study a language.
He served as the company's CEO until 2002, as its chairman until 2008, and is now semi-retired. Under Bertil Hult's supervision, EF grew to become a multi-billion dollar corporation with more than 37,000 employees (16,000 full-time office staff, 5,000 full-time faculty and 16,000 part-time teachers) across 500 schools and educational programs in 52 different countries. EF has expanded its language schools (both abroad and domestic), an online language school, au pair placement, student travel and exchange programs, and a business school. Hult International Business School, formerly the Arthur D. Little School of Management, is named after him.
EF Education First is wholly owned by Bertil Hult and his family. Forbes estimates Bertil's net worth to be 4.1 billion USD as of March, 2013. He is a keen sailor and his boat, EF Education with skipper Paul Cayard, won the last Whitbread Round the World Race in 1998. Today, he sails on his boat Erica XII. The boat is known for hosting the Swedish Crown Princess Victoria and her husband Prince Daniel on their honeymoon.
In 2006 he was elected International Swede of the Year. In 2012, Bertil Hult was awarded the Lucia Trade Award by the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce for his contribution to fostering free trade between Sweden and the United States. In 2014, Bertil Hult was named a Laureate by the World Entrepreneurship Forum. The award recognizes "exceptional entrepreneurs for their impact on society and their capacity to change the world."
Apart from EF, Bertil Hult has been involved in charities fighting drug abuse and promoting dyslexia education. In 1993, he was a founding member of the Geneva based Mentor Foundation, “an independent, non-governmental, not for profit, apolitical organization” focused on supporting research and initiatives in drug prevention. He has since served as chairman and currently as trustee for the foundation. Bertil Hult also supports the Bertil Hult Prize. Starting in 2003, the Bertil Hult Prize has been given to a Swedish school once every year, based on their support for dyslexia education.
Bertil Hult also sponsors the Hult Prize, a USD 1 million award for a global business school case competition run by Hult International Business School and the Clinton Global Initiative. Lately, the Hult family has founded EF's Global Classroom Foundation, whose goal it is to help rebuild elementary schools in troubled areas.
- Företagsamheten.se: Världens största privata utbildningsföretag, accessed on January 5, 2010 (Swedish)
- "The World Entrepreneurship Forum Presents its Awards for 2014". Yahoo! Finance. Retrieved 5 November 2014.