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How Iceland's Only Billionaire Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson Built His Empire?

Published Mon Dec 02 2019 By Bean
How Iceland's Only Billionaire Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson Built His Empire?

"Power, money, that's just the road to respect. After all, money disappears, friends die, and you die, but your reputation remains." Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson quoted.   

Iceland's solo billionaire Thor Björgólfsson achieved the title of 250th wealthiest people on the planet and was living large. He was named among them in just a decade of his eminent career. 

Shockingly, in 2008, the global financial crisis hit him hard, and he lost almost all of his business. Though everything around him was falling apart, Björgólfur Thor did not lose his confidence, and today, he stands as among the most successful businessmen of all time.  Details of his journey.    

Iceland's Only Billionaire Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson Built His Empire Twice!!!  

Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson became billionaire not only once but twice. It is safe to say that, Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson is the one and only billionaire of Iceland.  

Björgólfsson was born to a family with a long legacy in politics and business based in Iceland. His great grandfather Thor Jansen was the Danish-born Icelandic entrepreneur who survived bankruptcy twice.   

It all started back in 1991 when Björgólfsson and his father went to Russia with a friend Magnús Þorsteinsson. They together started a bottling company with the name Baltic Bottling Plant which they later sold to Pepsi with a million dollars profit.   

Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson A fighter: From Rich to Broke and Vice VersaImage Source: The Times
Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson A fighter: From Rich to Broke and Vice Versa

Image Source: The Times

With the money, they launched a brewing company initially called ООО "Торговый дом "РОСА" which was later registered with the name Bravo OOO in February 1996. After a few months, they changed its name to Bravo International OOO in August 1996. Following, they renamed it to Bravo International JSC in December 1997.  

A subsidiary of Bravo International, Bravo Brewery became a successful premium beer producing company. The produced premium beer Botchkarvo, which turned out to be the fastest-growing brewery all over Russia. In 2002, the ownership was transferred to Heineken Large Beer for an impressive $325 million. 

Beginning Of Financial Crisis 

With the sudden and vast increment in his earnings, he was speculated to be in contact with the Russian Mafia. According to the source, his income came from the men related to the mafia. 

Avid the vehement denial of any connection to Russian Mafia, Thor left Russia in 2002. By 2006, he was the owner of several business ventures-the owner and major shareholder of companies like Novator Partners, Landsbanki, and Straumur Investment Bank.  

Unfortunate: The 2008-11 Icelandic Financial Crisis

He was at the peak of his career, enjoying his lavish lifestyle; unfortunately, two of his significant companies, Straumur Investment Bank and Landsbanki, got hit by the crisis. The fall of two of his giants left Icelandic people in debt, not in millions but several billion dollars. 

Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson was one of the leading causes of the 2008-11 Icelandic financial crisis as he had taken the loan from several creditors in eight-digit figures around 700 million dollars. The Icelandic government took over his banks, but it was too late. Iceland was bankrupt, the currency was worthless, and the country's finance crashed.  

Eventually, on 12 April 2010, he published an apology 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 realized the danger. I request your forgiveness."

The financial crisis reduced his fortune to the extent that he had to drop his dream of the construction of a £100 million ($129 million) luxury Yacht.  

Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson BookImage Source: Good Reads
Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson Book

Image Source: Good Reads

Thor, who had the net worth of $3.5 billion, was now in negative and owed personally guaranteed $1 billion. 

Rise Of The Ashes

Despite all the crises, Björgólfur Thor did not let his mistake took over his life. In order to establish his new empire, the 52-year-old businessman first thought to gain the trust of his people again. He defended his reputations with the help of his website, letters to newspapers, and legal action.

In December 2013, the website "The Automatic Earth" reported:

Mr Bjorgolfsson still leads Novator Partners, a London-based investment firm, sits on several boards and holds shares in companies including Actavis, a Swiss drugmaker, and CCP, an Icelandic computer games company. His representative says any dividends from his shares, or future gains from their sale, will go towards settling debts to creditors following Landsbanki's decline.

He eventually paid off his debt by selling his yacht, private plane, even Ferrari collection. By the end of 2014, he was debt-free as he sold all of his multi-million worth shares, which were worth around $700 million. 

After repaying everything, he started his career from scratch and continued to invest in several businesses. The Icelandic businessman is reported to have a net worth of $2.2 billion as of 2019.