Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller: The Ultimate Shipping Magnate… Life & Lessons

Maersk Mc-Kinney MollerMærsk Mc-Kinney Møller was the greatest shipping magnate of the 20th Century, moving unthinkable numbers of containers and goods around the world and playing a revolutionary part in the invisible globalisation of the world by sea.

I’ve always been inspired by Maersk Line and loved how it plays such a big part in the progress of our world. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, Maersk is working and yet only a very few percent of the world will ever know it.

I once watched a corporate video called We Are Mearsk on YouTube. In the video Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller was featured and I found what he said both inspirational and true, and although it was spoke in relation to the business, I think it’s completely relatable to life to.

So in this post I’d like to share with you the life of Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, the son of the Maersk founder, A.P. Møller and discuss some of the many life lessons he and his incredible life have to give.

Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller: Biography

Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller was born on the 13 July 1913 to his Danish father, Arnold Peter Møller and his American mother, Chastine Estelle Roberta McKinney. They lived in Denmark during his childhood and in 1940, at the age of 27, Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller married his ‘high-school sweetheart’, Emma Neergaard Rasmussen, with whom he would remain married for the rest of his life.

1940 was a big year for Møller as he not only married his wife, but also became a partner in the A.P. Moller – Maersk Group, a company which his father A.P. Møller had set up 36 years prior. In 1941, Møller and his wife had their first child, Leise Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, and in 1944, their second, Kirsten Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller.

M_MMM BB1960Around this time and during the Second World War, Denmark was occupied by Germany and Møller was forced to exile in the United States. From there he carried on running the family business from his place in New York, until his return to Denmark in 1947.

Just one year after arriving back and in 1948, Møller and his wife had their third and final child, Ane Mærsk Mc-Kinney Uggla.

Moving Up in the A.P. Moller – Maersk Group

In 1965, Møller became the CEO and chairman of the A.P. Moller – Maersk Group following the death of his father and in 1970, the first foreign, non-American to be a member of the board for IBM. He held his position there for 14 years until 1984.

Maersk Mc-kinney MollerDuring his time as CEO, globalisation came to fruition and the business multiplied in size. A major proportion of global trade is transported by sea (around 90% some statics suggest) and a large proportion of that is carried by ships of the Maersk Line, a sub-company of the A.P. Moller – Maersk Group.

The group also joined and kept to new markets under the control of Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, including North Sea Oil exploration and extraction for which an original agreement was gained in 1962, 3 years previous to A.P. Møller’s death, Training and many APM Shipping Terminals around the world.

In 1993 at the age of 80 years old, Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller stepped down as CEO, passing the position over to Jess Søderberg. However, he remained chairman of the board for a further 10 years. It was now 2003 and at the age of 90 years old, Møller retired completely.

Philanthropic Activity

Throughout his lifetime, Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller made substantial donations to a variety of causes. They included the restoration of historical monuments, financial and cultural co-operation with the Danish minority of Southern Schleswig and the supporting of science and shipping in Denmark, an interest very close to home.

Copenhagen Opera HouseIn 2001 construction began on the Copenhagen Opera House, the most expensive opera house ever to be built, at a cost of 2.3 billion Danish kroner. The opera house, situated across the harbour from Amalienborg Palace, the royal residence of Denmark, and within sight of the Maersk world headquarters was donated to the Danish state by the A.P. Møller and Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation.

Following its completion in 2004, the Copenhagen Opera House was opened to the public on the 15th January 2005 with a ceremony in the presence of Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, the Danish Prime Minster Ander Fogh Rasmussen, and Queen Margrethe II.

Møller made many other donations through the A.P. Møller and Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation including renovations at Kastellet, the construction of the A.P. Møller High School in Schleswig and The Møller Centre for Continuing Education at Churchill College, Cambridge.


Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller died on the 16 April 2012, aged 98. He was well admired by many around the world and is said to of been considered one of the most respected industrialists in Denmark. A funeral ceremony was held on the 21st April in the Church of Holmen, which followed by a private ceremony in Hellerup Church, north of Copenhagen for family and friends. It was here where Møller was laid to rest, amongst others of his deceased family members.

Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller

Upon his death, Møller was Denmark’s second-richest man according to Forbes List of Billionaires 2007. However this was disputed by the Danish financial magazine, Berlingske Nyhedsmagasin which placed him as number one with an estimated fortune of 141.2 billion DKK in 2006.

In honour of the founder, Maersk Line’s new Triple E Class ship was named after him in 2013, the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller.

Life Lessons from Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller

Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller lived a long and complicated life, full of interesting occurrences and success. We can learn a lot from his life and success and a great corporate video, a favourite of mine from Maersk, he speaks about the real values of two life lessons in his life: Trust & Care. I’ll discuss these lessons below.


In ‘We Are Maersk’, Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller speakers about trust and the real value of trust to both him and his business. “The basic principle is, people can trust us.” He said, “Authorities can trust us, our employees can trust us and the business connections can trust us. The world should be a bond.”

And while this speaks particularly in a business sense, I believe it’s very true in a personal sense to. Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller didn’t get where he did without trust and neither did his business, he built up trust with others and made a lot of success on it. Trust can be incredibly important in life, if no one trusts you, how will you ever succeed in a life and world of relations?

Constant Care

The second lesson of Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, is care. There is a lot of care in the shipping industry, as it’s an industry made up of people. Companies must care for their crews, care for their customers and care about the cargo and service they’re providing.

Maersk Mc-Kinney MollerThroughout his life, Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller experienced and learned the importance of care. In a world of relations, the exercise of constant is care is an important thing, both for business and personal success.

“We exercise constant care.” Said Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, “By constant care, I mean care every time the action is taken. It’s much easier if you do it right the first time, instead of having to correct or add later on. That’s difficult.”

He said, “Constant care if the proverb that my papa left to me and to the group.” And is something which he showed throughout his life. It can’t be seen at any specific point or accomplishment during in his life, but is an underlying understanding which he had and which guided him through his life.

Through the constant excise of care by both himself personally and his company corporately, he lead himself and his business to a huge success. Only with care, do people care back and only with that can you ever gain success.

Constant care and attention is important whatever industry or life you’re in, if there’s one lesson to learn from Maersk and Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, then I believe the constant demonstration of care is it. Begin to care and realise the effects it has, care is the key to a long and lengthy success.

Wrote by Joe Brown - Follow me  - Part of the Lives & Lessons Series