Norway’s most philanthropic family, led by Trond Mohn, gave researchers in Bergen a gift this week that they’ll remember long after the Christmas holidays are over. Their donation of NOK 1 billion (USD 135 million) to further research, especially cancer research, is the latest in a tradition of donations that now top NOK 3 billion.
It will also be the last donation from all three members of the Mohn family (including father Trond, his daughter Marit and son Frederik Wilhelm Mohn) through their jointly owned company Wimoh AS. Trond Mohn also announced that he and his daughter had bought out Frederik Mohn’s shares in Wimoh.
“Frederik has wanted to go his own way, and we have full understanding for that,” Trond Mohn, age 71, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “When you’re young and active, it’s natural that you want to play in your own band.” After a highly public family feud following the sale of the family’s pump business earlier this year, the elder Mohn insisted that “we’re all friends” and that the split was amicable.
Supporting the foundation Mohn established
Before it occurred, Mohn stressed that all three agreed on giving the billion-kroner gift to Bergens Forskningsstiftelse, a research foundation that the Mohns want to continue to support, not least in its work to develop new cancer treatments. Mohn told NRK that he thinks “we’re only around 15 years away” from ending the fatal consequences of many forms of cancer, which he also says “affects every family in the country.”
The foundation itself was set up by Trond Mohn in 2004, so the billion-kroner gift was also meant to mark its 10th anniversary. Of the billion kroner donated, the elder Mohn said his son stood fro 32 percent, his daughter for 20 percent and he was behind the remainder. After it was agreed, he and his daughter bought out Fredrik Mohn’s 32.2 percent stake in Wimoh AS, with Trond Mohn telling newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that his son “got a good price.”
Trond Mohn earlier has been an active supporter of various community causes in Bergen and around Norway. He’s donated heavily to the local football club Brann and to the club in Tromsø, in addition to donating millions over the years to the needy and to other organizations including the new left-leaning think tank Agenda.
Mohn, who recently emerged as having paid more personal income tax in Norway than anyone else, called the donation to researchers in Bergen “this year’s julegave (Christmas gift).” He told DN the family simply wanted “to support the research milieu in Bergen, for example cancer research,” but stressed that many other forms of research will benefit.
Kåre Rommetveit, leader of the research foundation, called the Mohns’ donation “a completely incredible Christmas gift,” and claimed that the Mohns’ generosity “can hardly be found anywhere else in Norway.” Known for its relatively high tax levels, philanthropy isn’t as widespread in Norway as in other countries like the US, because many Norwegians feel they share and spread their wealth through the tax system.
There were no strings attached to the billion-kroner gift, apart from a request that it be distributed in line with the applicable goals of the foundation. The foundation’s own bylaws call for its funds go towards strengthening the long-term quality of research in Bergen that’s mostly carried out at the University of Bergen and Haukeland University Hospital.
The Mohns’ donation will nearly double the foundation’s capital of NOK 1.4 billion, the returns on which are distributed to researchers. The foundation has to date distributed NOK 432 million to researchers in Bergen.