Björgólfur Guðmundsson (born 2 January 1941 in Reykjavík, Iceland) was the chairman and former owner of West Ham United FC. Björgólfur was Iceland's second businessman worth more than a billion dollars — his son, Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson being the first. He was ranked by Forbes magazine in March 2008 as the 1014th-richest person in the world, with a net worth of $1.1 billion. In December of the same year Forbes revalued his net worth to $0 and on 31 July 2009 he was declared bankrupt by the Icelandic courts with debts of almost £500 million (96 Billion ISK).
Björgólfur is former majority owner and ex-chairman of now nationalised Icelandic bank Landsbanki, the second largest company in Iceland. He is the father of Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson.
He is the third husband of Margrét Þóra Hallgrímsson. Björgólfur is a former footballer, furniture packer and law student, a recovering alcoholic of 30 years and an old-fashioned philanthropist. In the 1990s he was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for 2 years, for bookkeeping offences, having faced around 450 charges. He went to Russia, remade his fortune and returned to Iceland, where he also has interests in shipping, publishing, food, communications and property.
Beverage businessman in Saint Petersburg
Björgólfur Guðmundsson co-founded Bravo Brewery with Magnús Þorsteinsson chairman of Avion Group and his son. Bravo Brewery became a success and they later sold the venture to Heineken for $400 million which they invested both in Iceland and abroad.
Danish journalists noted that in St. Petersburg, the Committee on External Economic Relations in Saint Petersburg's Mayor's office was responsible for foreigners in Saint Petersburg. The committee's chairman was Vladimir Putin.
The Icelandic businessmen, together with Russian partners, founded a bottling company Baltic Bottling Plant, which was sold to Pepsi. They moved to brewing and founded a brewing company Bravo International OOO in August 1996 which became Bravo International JSC in December 1997. Bravo Brewery became a success on the premium beer Botchkarov.
In 2005 an article in The Guardian wondered where the Icelandic money comes from and noted that in the 1990s the three Icelandic businessmen "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 St. Petersburg brewing market faced problems. Ilya Weismann, deputy director of competing beverage company Baltic, was assassinated on 10 January 2000. Soon afterwards Baltic director general Aslanbek Chochiev was also assassinated. One competing St Petersburg brewery burned to the ground.
He became an owner of Landsbanki.
Björgólfur has been a keen football fan for years and led the consortium which bought the English Premier League football club West Ham United. He bought 90% of the club himself and became the club's Honorary Life President in June 2006, alongside Eggert Magnússon who became Chairman. In December 2007, Björgólfur bought out Magnusson's residual 5% stake, and took over the chairman's role. On 8 June 2009 West Ham were taken over by asset management company CB Holding. Chairman Gudmundsson and vice-chairman Asgeir Fridgeirsson resigned from the club's board.
After the almost total collapse of the Icelandic banking system in 2008, Björgúlfur Guðmundsson was pointed out as one of the main players behind the Icelandic economic disaster in all Icelandic media including the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RUV) and all major newspapers. With the demise of the Landsbanki and in the wake of the Icelandic financial crisis, the government of Iceland plans to investigate the actions of Björgólfur and others in what is called "The White Book".
Appearances in popular culture
Björgólfur Guðmundsson is the inspiration for one of the principal characters of Bjarni Harðarson's satirical novel about the 2008–2012 Icelandic financial crisis, Sigurðar saga fóts: Íslensk riddarasaga, where his counterpart is Bjarnhéðinn ‘kaupahéðinn’ Jónsson.
- Forbe's Rich List 2008
- Billionaire Blowups of 2008
- Icelandic bank chief in £500m of hot water
- Jackson, Jamie (2 September 2007). "He's the real thing". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- Jackson, Jamie (2 September 2007). "He's the real thing". London: The Observer. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
- Conn, David (29 November 2006). "The real power behind West Ham". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
- "Россия желает спасать Исландию из-за давних офшорных связей чиновников и бизнесменов". The New Times. 21 October 2008.. Another copy: "Зачем Россия спасает Исландию". Rususa. 21 October 2008.. An automatic translation: "Discussion of the relationship between Iceland and Russia from the Russian newspaper.".
- Griffiths, Ian (16 June 2005). "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. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- "Who is Thor Bjorgolfsson, Iceland's lone billionaire?". Invest in Greece. 20 January 2006.
- Magnusson leaves Hammers SkySports – 13 December 2007
- "Eggert is victim of Hammers' reshuffle as he loses chairman's role at Upton Park". Daily Mail. 13 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-13.
- West Ham takeover deal completed www.bbc.co.uk
- Robert Jackson (15 November 2008). "The Big Chill". Financial Times.
- 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.