Executive changes at two big Norwegian companies

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New chief executives for two of Norway’s most high-profile companies are needed, after the top boss at coastal cruise- and shipping line Hurtigruten resigned and the man in charge at industrial firm Orkla got fired.

Olav Fjell, a former chief executive at Statoil, had taken the helm at Hurtigruten five years ago and was responsible for its major restructuring and refinancing. It’s been completed and Fjell, who recently turned 60 and has been commuting between Hurtigruten’s headquarters in Tromsø and his home in Oslo, feels it’s time to turn over the wheel to someone else.

“It’s always difficult to find a good time for something like this, but now the most dramatic and acute jobs are finished for Hurtigruten,” Fjell told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). “I have a deal with my wife that now I’m supposed to come home in the evening.”

Hurtigruten logged a loss again last year after lots of severe storms along the coast, many cancelled departures and a fire on board one of its vessels. It also garnered lots of publicity and cemented its important role among Norwegians when state broadcaster NRK aired an entire voyage minute by minute last June. It attracted record numbers of viewers.

At Orkla, meanwhile, chief executive Bjørn Wiggen was cleaning out his office this week after losing his job because he wasn’t selling off Orkla’s industrial assets quickly enough. Wiggen, who spent around 30 years at Orkla, did sell off metals firm Elkem and Borregaard Skoger, but hasn’t unloaded aluminum company Sapa, Borregaard’s chemical operations or solar firm REC yet.

He’s the fourth Orkla boss to be fired under the chairmanship of investor and former retailing tycoon Stein Erik Hagen, who owns about a quarter of Orkla’s shares. Hagen’s old friend Åge Korsvold will take over the CEO role on an interim basis until a new boss is found for Orkla, which is transforming itself from an industrial concern into a mostly brand-name producer of food and household items.

Views and News staff