Former Norwegian “wonderboy” Jo Lunder didn’t last very long as chief executive of the sprawling shipping and industrial group headed by Norwegian tycoon John Fredriksen. His arrest on corruption charges has, as expected, put an end to his short career with one of the world’s wealthiest men.
It was just last June that Lunder took the helm at Fredriksen-gruppen, shortly after resigning as CEO of VimpelCom Ltd, which is under investigation in four countries over alleged bribery at its operations in Uzebekistan. VimpelCom is partly owned by Telenor of Norway, where Lunder also had held top posts and which also is caught up in the VimpelCom allegations.
“No, he won’t be coming back here,” Fredriksen himself told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). “We have agreed on that between us in a tidy and proper manner. Jo Lunder needs to use his time on what he’s now caught up in. I wish him good luck.”
Fredriksen hadn’t seemed bothered earlier this year by the corruption charges swirling around the company that Lunder had run until April. His arrest earlier this autumn changed things: “Everyone knows that with these charges hanging over him, it’s difficult for him to function in that type of job,” Lunder’s attorney Cato Schiøtz told DN. He called the termination of Lunder’s work agreement with Fredriksen a consequence of the corruption charges filed against Lunder himself by Norway’s white collar crime unit Økokrim.
Lunder has vigorously denied he’s guilty of any corruption at VimpelCom. He has acknowledged himself, however, that he’ll need to devote all energy to fighting the charges against him. Fredriksen told DN he wasn’t sure whether Lunder would be replaced in the role he’d been hired to fill at the group, where Fredriksen’s twin daughters are steadily taking on more responsibility.