Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson
|Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson|
Reykjavík, Iceland 19 March 1967
|Occupation||Investor and Entrepreneur|
Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson (born 19 March 1967 in Reykjavík, Iceland), known internationally as Thor Bjorgolfsson, is an Icelandic businessman and entrepreneur, and former chairman of the financial firm Straumur-Burðarás and chairman of investment firm Novator Partners.
He has been declared "Iceland's first billionaire", and was ranked as the 249th-richest person in the world by Forbes magazine in 2007—up from 350th the previous year—with a net worth of $3.5 billion. The Sunday Times’ Sunday Times Rich List (2007) lists his net worth at £2,000 million. However, following the financial crisis of 2007–2010, Björgólfur's net worth declined to $1 billion (as of March 2009).
Björgólfur is heir to a long lasting family legacy in Icelandic business and politics. His great-grandfather was the legendary Danish-born Icelandic entrepreneur Thor Jensen, who all but introduced the term "big business" to the country in the early years of the twentieth century. The eighth of Thor's eleven children was Margrét Þorbjörg Thor, whose daughter Margrét Þóra Hallgrímsson (known as Þóra), had Björgólfur Thor as her only child by her third husband Björgólfur Guðmundsson. Þóra was previously married to George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party.
- His rare self-confidence made him stand out. He was immensely physically strong and bench pressed over 450 pounds. He was an entrepreneur from early on, and by the age of 11 he was delivering newspapers in the early hours of the morning. A year later he was a delivery boy at the University of Iceland and, at 13, was running his own home video delivery service. While still in high school, he was running a nightclub in Reykjavík and organised the first Oktoberfest beer festival in Iceland. After high school, he studied business in New York. Fluent in several languages, and with an unusual ability to both blend in and stand out, he embodied Iceland's internationalism.
Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson chose to go to the United States in 1986 when his father Björgólfur Guðmundsson's bankrupt firm, Hafskip, was embroiled in a financial scandal involving fraud and embezzlement. Graduating from Commercial College in Reykjavík in 1987, he completed a B.S. in Marketing at the Leonard N Stern School of Business at New York University in 1991.
Beverage businessman in Saint Petersburg
A report published in Denmark noted that the Committee on External Economic Relations in Saint Petersburg Mayor's office was responsible for foreigners. The committee's chairman was Vladimir Putin between 1991 and 1996.
The Icelandic businessmen, together with Russian partners, founded bottling company Baltic Bottling Plant, which was sold to Pepsi. Next they founded a brewing company. ООО "Торговый дом "РОСА" was registered in March 1995 and changed its name to Bravo OOO in February 1996 (address was also changed). It further changed its name to Bravo International OOO in August 1996 and Bravo International JSC in December 1997. Founders of Bravo were six companies registered in Limassol, Cyprus - Björgólfsson was president of all of them. Bravo Brewery became a success on the premium beer Botchkarov.
An article in The Guardian (2005) wondered where Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson's money comes from and noted that in the 1990s the Icelanders "were not only ploughing money into the country but doing it in the city regarded as the Russian mafia capital. That investment was being made in the drinks sector, seen by the mafia as the industry of choice." Competitors in the Saint Petersburg brewing market faced problems. For instance, Ilya Weismann, deputy director of competing beverage company Baltic, was assassinated on January 10, 2000. Later Baltic director general Aslanbek Chochiev was also assassinated. One competing Saint Petersburg brewery burned to the ground.
He returned to Iceland to gain interest in numerous ventures there.
Consul of Russia
In 2000, Saint Petersburg opened an honorary consulate in Iceland. Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson was appointed Consul and Magnús Þorsteinsson was appointed Honorary Vice-Consul. The opening ceremony was held on March 10, 2000.
Novator Partners, which is managed by Björgólfsson, has bought assets around Eastern Europe. The company's owners are unknown.
In 2002, his holding company gained 45% share of Landsbanki, Iceland's second largest bank, in a controversial privatization. Landsbanki was declared to be acting contrary to the interests of the United Kingdom and placed on a watchlist usually used for the blocking of funds to terrorist organizations by the British government after bankruptcy in October 2008.
Straumur Investment Bank
He was the main owner as well as the chairman of the Straumur Investment Bank.
Two of Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson's companies, Landsbanki and Straumur, left the Icelandic people with several billions of dollars in debt, when they went bankrupt following the Icelandic financial crisis.
Two days after the publication of the Icelandic government report on the financial crisis on 12 April 2010, Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson issued a public apology for his role in causing the crisis in the Icelandic newspaper Fréttablaðið, including the statement
- I the undersigned, Björgólfur Thor, request forgiveness from all Icelanders for my role in the asset- and debt-bubble that led to the collapse of the Icelandic banking system. I request your forgiveness for my complacency towards the danger signs which arose. I request forgiveness for having not succeeded in following my instincts when I realised the danger. I request your forgiveness.
Appearances in popular culture
Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson is the inspiration for the main character of Bjarni Harðarson's satirical novel about the 2008–2012 Icelandic financial crisis, Sigurðar saga fóts: Íslensk riddarasaga, where his counterpart is the main character, Sigurður frits ('fótur') Bjarnhéðinsson.
- Guðmundur Hálfdanarson, Historical Dictionary of Iceland, 2nd edn, Historical Dictionaries of Europe, 66 (Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, 2008), p. 21 (s.v. BJÖRGÓLFSSON, BJÖGÓLFUR THOR (1967-- )).
- Armann Thorvaldsson, Frozen Assets: How I Lived Iceland's Boom and Bust (Chichester: Wiley, 2009), pp. 64-65.
- Guðmundur Hálfdanarson, Historical Dictionary of Iceland, 2nd edn, Historical Dictionaries of Europe, 66 (Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, 2008), p. 21 (s.v. BJÖRGÓLFSSON, BJÖGÓLFUR THOR (1967-- )); Peter Lee, `Landsbanki's new masters take control', Euromoney, vol. 33 issue 403 (November 2002), pp. 34--47.
- Griffiths, Ian (2005-06-16). "Next-generation Viking invasion - They've got the cash to buy big UK groups like M&S. But where does it come from?". London: The Guardian.
- "Who is Thor Bjorgolfsson, Iceland's lone billionaire?". Invest in Greece. 2006-01-20.
- Questions over Landsbanki's new shareholder /Euromoney magazine
- IcelandReview - Online, Iceland News, Travel, Vacation, Culture, Hotels, Politics, Business
- IceNews - Daily News. "Interview with Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson". Retrieved 2009-01-22.
- Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson, 'Ég bið ykkur afsökunar', Fréttablaðið 14 April 2010. Quoted from Guðbjörg Hildur Kolbeins, '...svo sem vér og fyrirgefum... Fyrirgefningin og hrunið', Þjóðarspegillinn: Rannsóknir í félagsvísindum, 12 (2011), 112-19 (p. 115), accessed from http://skemman.is/stream/get/1946/10259/25577/1/Rannsoknir_i_felagsvisindum_XII_Vidskiptafraedideild.pdf#page=120 13th April 2012.
- Selfoss: Sæmundur, 2010. See Alaric Hall, "Sigurðar saga fóts: Fourteenth-century Saga to Financial Crisis Satire", http://web.uvic.ca/~becktrus/guest_lects.php?sort=seqEng.