Innovation boss set to lose her job

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Gunn Ovesen, who has headed the state agency Innovation Norway for the past decade, is abruptly the leaving the organization that made her one of Norway’s most high-profile business leaders inside and outside the country. Circumstances around her sudden departure are being withheld, but she’ll take with her up to 16 months worth of her salary, which has been much more than what the prime minister earns.

As head of Innovation Norway, Gunn Ovesen was considered one of the country's most powerful women in business. She's shown here, in red, with the chief executive of Norway's biggest bank, Rune Bjerke (left), and another leading businesswoman, Berit Kjoll. PHOTO: Nærings- og handels departementet

As head of Innovation Norway, Gunn Ovesen was considered one of the country’s most powerful women in business. She’s shown here, in red, with the chief executive of Norway’s biggest bank, Rune Bjerke (left), and another leading businesswoman, Berit Kjoll. PHOTO: Nærings- og handels departementet

Ovesen, age 59, confirmed to newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Friday that she has no new job lined up and and that it was “sad” to leave. DN reported that her pending departure, set for December 31, was “desired and initiated” by the board of Innovation Norway.

“The worst will be saying farewell to all the fine people I’ve worked with,” Ovesen told DN. “There have been a few tears today.”

Innovation Norway issued a press release late Thursday that Ovesen would resign her post by New Year “after a dialogue with the board.” She is not entitled to any severance pay under the terms of her contract, but she nonetheless will be paid up to 16 months of her salary, which DN reported was NOK 2.5 million (more than USD 400,000) including benefits last year. Reidar Sandal, board leader of Innovation Norway, said the board determined that it was “a normal severance agreement,” and that her compensation will be reduced when or if Ovesen starts earning other income in another job.

Gunn Ovesen (left), known for often wearing colourful clothing, instead of business suits, at a travel seminar with former government minister and Labour Party official Helga Pedersen. PHOTO: regjeringen.no

Gunn Ovesen (left), known for often wearing colourful clothing, instead of business suits, at a travel seminar with former government minister and Labour Party official Helga Pedersen. PHOTO: regjeringen.no

“What I’ll do now, I don’t know,” Ovesen told DN. “I have had the world’s coolest job and it’s sad to leave it. Even worse than today will be December 31.”

Innovation Norway, which encompasses the tourism agency Visit Norway, was formed to profile and promote Norwegian business and Norway as a travel destination. It’s majority owned by the state ministry in charge of business and trade and Norwegian counties, and has representatives in more than 30 countries including India, Denmark, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates. Innovation Norway also aims to foster entrepreneurship within Norway, support new business ventures and help secure their profitability.

In her role as its managing director, Ovesen traveled around the world, often with top government officials or members of the royal family. Sandal wouldn’t say why Ovesen was suddenly leaving, but noted that Ovesen had held her post for 10 years and also headed the agency’s forerunner organization, the business development agency SND, for two years before that.

“That’s a long time,” Sandal told DN. “We have had a dialogue with her over time and arrived at this solution. That’s all I will say.” He added, though, that Innovation Norway’s board has kept the state business and trade ministry informed of the personnel process.

Finn Kristian Aamodt, a divisional director with Innovation Norway, will take over Ovesen’s duties while the board searches for her permanent replacement.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund