The story of the Fredriksen empire

Shipping magnate John Fredriksen created one of the world’s greatest fortunes. Here is his story.

Norwegian John Fredriksen should be the richest man in Norway. His £6.8 billion fortune places him as the 110th richest man in the world, and the richest man in Cyprus, the place of his residence.

However Fredriksen is certainly not of a Greek background, and his domicile in Cyprus is as a result of a dispute with tax authorities in Norway, the country of his birth and heritage.

He is known in shipping circles as a shrewd and cunning businessman, and has been able to increase the size of his fortune in a period when many have struggled to grow their empire.

He is a sign of Viking cunning, having made much of his fortune during the Iran-Iraq war when he was involved in moving great quantities of oil to help the Iranian government with its war efforts.

He made considerable profits during this dangerous journey and was described as the ‘Ayatollah’s lifeline’ with his ships hit three times by Iraqi missile strikes.

Fredriksen was born into a humble family. From Etterstad in Eastern Oslo – traditionally a working-class district of the city – his father was a welder. He started out as a fishing broker, moving quantities between Iceland and Hamburg.

The enterprising young man then moved to Beirut where he got involved in shipping crude oil, later making his aforementioned fortune via the Iranian deal.

Fredriksen is said to own the world’s largest shipping fleet – through his company Frontline- with additional interests in offshore exploration play Seadrill – the company he founded in 2005 – as well as in seafood giant Marine Harvest, in which he holds the controlling stake.

Despite not being a Norwegian citizen, he is the most powerful businessman in the oil-rich nation, with his other holdings including the dry bulk shipping company Golden Ocean Group. He also controls Deep Sea Supply, an offshore vehicle specialist.

With a reputation as a shrewd businessman there has been much debate as to what will happen to his business should he decide to pass on his empire.

With a mansion in Chelsea worth an incredible £132.5 million, his two daughters Cecile and Katherine are also board members on a number of his companies. However it is believed that they are unlikely to take over the Fredriksen empire themselves, given their relative lack of experience in shipping.

While Fredriksen is an example of a Viking that rose to the top with the spirit of conquest and adventure.

He is unlikely to be replicated anytime soon, with Norway’s immense oil wealth meaning that less-affluent Norwegians are now able to access high-paying jobs in oil and gas even with a very limited educational background.

While he is not to everyone’s taste, he is Norway’s richest man and the most powerful businessman in the Viking kingdom despite having relinquished his citizenship.

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