The Richest Men in Norway

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Naturally endowed with natural resources and minerals, it is no wonder that Norway is among the wealthiest nations of the world. However what is incredible is the high quality of life enjoyed by the vast majority of its citizens. Indeed Norway has always figured among the top nations on the human development index scale. Here are some of the richest men in Norway who made best use of their social and economic opportunities to figure among the world’s billionaires1.$MM-DATING3-OPTIN$

Olav Thon

Even at eighty-four years old, real estate developer Olav Thon is active and still adding on to his considerable net worth of $5 billion. The source of his wealth is the Olav Thon Gruppen, the country's largest private real estate company that owns 425 properties in Norway and 25 abroad. The portfolio includes 61 shopping malls as well as office buildings, retail stores, hotels with 7,000 rooms and several Oslo restaurants and pubs – in all a staggering rise from 1951 when Olav opened his first building and in 1966 when he started his first restaurant.

In September 2008, Olav Thon's solicitor, John Christian Elden, announced in the Norwegian media that Olav Thon intends to give away his entire fortune. Thon's portfolio will eventually be placed in a trust named after Thon, and will according to Elden, be spent on future generations. Currently the octagerian billionaire lives in Oslo.

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Stein Erik Hagen

With a net worth of $2.7 billion, retail baron Stein Erik Hagen is the second richest man in Norway. Hagen made his fortune offering cheaper groceries to Norwegians used to paying high prices for food and household supplies. He founded the RIMI discount grocery store chain along with his father in the 1970s, and retained ownership until the 2000s, when he sold to Swedish ICA and Ahold. With the money from the sale he founded the Orkla group of companies and has since branched into industry and real estate ventures, owning majority shares in Steen & Strøm, consumer goods manufacturer Orkla, hardware store Jernia and e-commerce site Komplett through his family company Canica.

Kjell Inge Rokke

Rokke started out as a fisherman but soon became one of Norway’s foremost industrialists. The main source of his wealth is a conglomerate that operates shipyards, offshore drilling, seafood, and shipping. Rokke controls the Norwegian company Aker Solutions besides being the joint owner of Wimbledon Football Club. Currently Rokke is has assets worth around $2.1 billion according to Forbes as of March 2012.

Rokke’s is a classic riches-to-rags story. Being dyslexic, was reportedly told by a schoolteacher that he'd never amount to anything. He made his fortune when he left for the USA after having worked for years on fishing trawlers in Alaska. There he settled in Seattle, Washington in the 1980s, owning and operating American Seafoods Company. In the early 1990s, he returned to Norway, buying and restructuring various companies. Rokke was in news in 2005 for being convicted of bribery change and spent almost a month in jail, after which he was released on parole.

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Arne Wilhelmsen

Norway’s shipping industry is the source of most of the private wealth in the country. One of its greatest beneficiaries is Arne Wilhelmsen, whose family has long had major stakes in Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, tankers and other shipping and offshore ventures. Currently his personal fortune is pegged at $1.6 billion as of March 2012 which according to Forbes2 marks a drop of nearly 25% as his cruise company hit rough waters. However Wilhelmsen continues to rank among the richest in Norway and even among the world’s billionaires – 804th on Forbes 2012 list of billionaires – on account of his ownership of private real estate company Linstow, one of Norway's largest property developers. Wilhelmsen also made a neat packet worth at least $500 million in 2008 when China Oilfield Services acquired all of Awilco Offshore, including his 40% stake, for $2.5 billion. Currently Wilhelmsen chairs the family investment company, with stakes in oil tankers, Russian hotels and Baltic shopping centers.

The 82 year old cruise owner lives in Oslo; he is married and has three children.

Petter Stordalen

The 49 year old hotel tycoon is a relatively recent entry on the list of Norwegians among the world’s billionaires. However he is easily one of the richest men in Norway, thanks to a net worth of $1.2 billion as of March 2012. Stordalen is the owner and CEO of Nordic Choice Hotels, which has more than 170 hotels in the Nordic region. He originally purchased the majority of Choice Hotels' Scandinavian operations in 1996 with investor Christen Sveaas for 100 million Norwegian Krone, but by 1999 Stordalen had bought out his partner to gain full ownership of the company.
Stordalen’s entrepreneurial skills were evident early on. He started working in his father's grocery store but by 24 he was already manager of Norway's largest shopping center.

A former Ironman racer, Stordalen has also been a passionate supporter of environmental causes. In 2002 He chained himself to the UK nuclear treatment plant Sellafield in protest for 9 hours. Recently he was also in news for rebuilding his sports car to be the world's first biofueled Ferrari. Currently living in Oslo, Stordalen is married to Norwegian physician Gunhild to whom he is believed to have proposed on a mountaintop on New Year’s Eve 2008 and then splashed $5 million in the most expensive wedding in Scandinavian history3.

John Fredriksen

Though no longer technically a Norwegian after he abandoned his Norwegian citizenship in protest against the country’s tax laws, now-Cypriot John Fredriksen deserves to figure in any list of the richest men from Norway purely on account of the vast shipping empire he controls. Fredriksen is the owner of the largest oil tanker fleet in the world comprising of more than seventy oil tankers. According to Forbes 2012 he has a net worth of 11.3 billion and ranks 75th on the list of global billionaires4. Apart from his oil tankers business, Fredriksen has major interests in oil rigs and fish farming like the offshore driller Seadrill, the fish farming company Marine Harvest, the dry bulk company Golden Ocean Group and supply vessel company Deep Sea Supply. Moreover through his investment companies Hemen Holdings and Meisha, Fredriksen controls the companies Frontline and Golar LNG from London.

Reference:

  1. Forbes - The World's Billionaires – Norway
     
  2. Forbes - Arne Wilhelmsen & family
     
  3. Forbes - Petter Stordalen
     
  4. Forbes - http://www.forbes.com/profile/john-fredriksen/