Shipping heiress keen to take over

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Cecilie Fredriksen, one of shipping tycoon John Fredriksen’s twin daughters, made it clear this week that she wants to take the helm at her father vast empire. Fredriksen himself, though, shows no clear signs of relinquishing command any time soon.

Cecilie Fredriksen, age 27, is working towards taking over the helm, especially at shipping companies within her father's vast business empire. PHOTO: Marine Harvest

One of two heiresses to what’s anchored in an intensely private family concern, Cecilie Fredriksen made a public debut of sorts when she appeared at an international shipping conference in Oslo as part of a panel discussing how the next generation might lead the shipping industry. It included the heir to the Wilh Wilhelmsen shipping line among others, Thomas Wilhelmsen, but most came to see and hear Cecilie, while her twin sister Kathrine sat in the audience. She was careful about what she said, sometimes deferring comment, but indicated she’s genuinely interested in and increasingly knowledgeable of the maritime trade.

Both of Fredriksen’s daughters are already deeply involved in family firms, with board seats and “hands-on” responsibility in businesses ranging from offshore oil rigs to tanker-owning and operating companies to fish farming. Cecilie seems to think shipping is the most exciting, apparently inheriting the passion from her father who rose from being a junior broker to the world’s largest tanker owner. John Fredriksen currently ranks as among the world’s wealthiest men and gave up his Norwegian citizenship in a dispute over taxation he deemed unfair.

The Fredriksens remain known as Norwegians with major operations still based in Norway and employing thousands of people. They divide their time between homes in London and Oslo and a host of other places and were in Norway last week not just for the conference but also for several board meetings of Fredriksen-controlled firms.

“I hope Cecilie takes over soon, I’m beginning to get tired,” Fredriksen, a 67-year-old widower, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN), only to quickly contradict himself and say that he had no immediate plans to retire.

“I have no idea how long I’ll hang on, it depends on many things, health first and foremost,” he told DN. “But I won’t retire. I think I’ll work until I die.”

Asked how his health is, he replied: “Not too bad. I only work 18 hours a day, perhaps a bit more, so I’m still going strong. I hope I’ll hold on for 30 more years, but I’m not sure.”

Asked what Cecilie will do in the meantime, Fredriksen said “she has enough to do, there’s enough to keep an eye on,” without going into detail about what her positions and duties will be in the future.

Charged with market manipulation
The elder Fredriksen also made headlines this week over allegations from American authorities that he manipulated the oil market in the US. They claim companies he controls bought up millions of barrels of American crude oil to influence pricing and earn millions on options.

Fredriksen called the allegations “just rubbish” and said they came as a surprise. He wouldn’t comment on whether the two oil traders named in a civil suit still work for his companies but told DN his companies operated just like all others in buying and selling oil, “completely normal. We are completely innocent.”

US authorities don’t seem to agree, with the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission saying it would follow up the allegations, full speed ahead.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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