Sigrún Davíðsdóttir's Icelog

The world according to BTB

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Bjorgolfur Thor Bjorgolfsson, who outside Iceland goes by the name of Thor Bjorgolfsson, is now using the world wide web to write his own story and to shape the past and present according to his Weltanschauung. Unfortunately for non-Icelandic speaking possibly avid readers the website is, so far at least, only in Icelandic.

Bjorgolfsson was, together with his father, the largest shareholder in Landsbanki and was in addition the largest shareholder in investmentbank Straumur. His shareholding in both banks has been wiped out but Straumur seems to be moving out of moratorium. His third main asset, the generic pharmaceuticals Actavis, is still in his name but the major part of the debt has been on Deutche Bank’s books.

Bjorgolfsson has been an immensely active investor since he and his father started their joint venture in St Petersburg in the early 90s. That story, shrouded in mystery, is so far best told in an article in Euromoney Nov. 2002 when it was clear that they would become principal shareholders in Landsbanki, together with their business partner in Russia Magnus Thorsteinsson. On Wikileaks there are documents from to the court cases related to how they became owners of the Russian businesses. There have been countless articles on the Russian activities and Bjorgolfsson’s Eastern European interests.

The trio then set up a brewery that they sold to Heineken in 2002. The brewery was set up together with an American investor, Capital Group of Los Angeles, at the time active in Russia. The sale to Heineken didn’t mark the start of an international investment carrier:  Bjorgolfsson was already actively investing in Easter-Europe, i.a. together with Deutsche Bank.

In Iceland the BTB web is seen as Bjorgolfsson’s PR campaign: he isn’t happy to be branded as a ‘viking raider’ excluded from all future involvement in Iceland due to his past in general and to Icesave in particular. A close associate of his, Hreidar Mar Gudjonsson who used to work for Novator, Bjorgolfsson’s main investment vehicle, is now leading a group of investor to buy Sjova, an insurance company brought to the brink of bankruptcy by its ‘raider’ owners, Milestone. Gudjonsson’s move will undoubtedly raise questions of possible involvement by Bjorgolfsson.

Information on the BTB web has already led to a statement from Robert Wessman ex-CEO of Actavis and earlier a close associate of Bjorgolfsson. The two had i.a. a joint real estate venture in Spain that didn’t do too well. On his web Bjorgolfsson claims that Wessman was fired. In a statement today, Wessman begs to differ, says he wasn’t fired and publishes his final salary agreement to prove his point. Wessman also points out that Bjorgolfsson is now running a huge spin campaign with a group of people on his pay roll; he should instead rather use the money he’s pouring into spin to pay his debt.

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Written by Sigrún Davídsdóttir

August 20th, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Posted in Iceland

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