Our history

The LEO Foundation was established in 1984 by Dr.h.c. Knud E. Abildgaard, the that time owner of LEO Pharma. He did so with the specific intent of ensuring LEO Pharma its future as an independent, research-based pharmaceutical company.

Abildgaard took over the company in 1939 after the company’s founder, Abildgaard’s father-in-law, pharmacist August Kongsted, passed away.

Kongsted had established LEO Pharma in his Copenhagen apothecary – the Lion Pharmacy – in 1908. He was one of the few entrepreneurial men-about-town in the Danish pharmaceutical industry. Apart from heading his own venture, Kongsted helped set up Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium (later to evolve into Novo Nordisk).

During Abildgaard’s years at the helm, he grew LEO Pharma into an international, growth-oriented and innovative organisation with subsidiaries, representations, and production sites on several continents.

In the 1970s, Abildgaard announced plans to secure the continuation of his life’s work through the creation of a foundation. He intended to have LEO Pharma stay a 100 percent independent company and able to further evolve its position as a significant and serious player in pharmaceuticals – to the benefit of patients as well as the company’s own continued development.

The plans came afoot in 1984, when he and his wife donated all their shares in LEO Pharma to the LEO Foundation.

The Foundation’s charter specified the LEO Foundation as a commercial entity: The Foundation was to own all shares of LEO Pharma, operate and develop the company, and have no ties or liaisons to family, minority shareholders, or other third party interests.

In addition to the ownership of LEO Pharma, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees was given an opportunity to support independent research within the fields of medicine, chemistry and/or pharmacy.

The Abildgaards both passed away in 1986 by which time the LEO Foundation had assumed full control of LEO Pharma.

The long-term owner perspective of the LEO Foundation – together with the skilled and passionate people that have joined the company’s ranks over the years – is the reason that LEO Pharma has been able to evolve into a world leading provider of dermatology care solutions to millions of patients globally. And an employer of around 5,000 people in over 60 countries within research, development, production, and sales.