Colleagues at Norway’s national employers association NHO were all but mourning the looming loss of their boss, Kristin Skogen Lund, after she confirmed that she was resigning the powerful position to accept a new job as chief executive of Schibsted Group, the large Norwegian media company. Lund formerly headed Schibsted’s biggest newspaper, Aftenposten, and staff there were eager to welcome her back.
Even Lund’s main rival at Norway’s largest trade union confederation LO, Hans-Christian Gabrielsen, was sorry to see her go. “Kristin Skogen Lund and I have cooperated well together for many years,” Gabrielsen told newspaper Dagsavisen. While she represented employers and Gabrielsen represented employees, the two respected each other during labour negotiations and managed to agree on moderate wage settlements during some economically challenging years.
“This was both surprising and a bit sad,” Gabrielsen said. “Kristin has contributed towards bringing new life to the cooperation between LO and NHO, which is so important for the Norwegian model and Norwegian jobs.”
Many other colleagues and also seemed stunned and unhappy to lose her, but all wished her well. “This came very suddenly,” Ole Erik Almlid, whom Lund had brought over from Aftenposten and who will now take over her duties until a permanent replacement is hired. “What’s important for me now is to get NHO to function in the best manner for the employers, until a new leader is in place.” He said he didn’t see himself in that role: “I have worked with Kristin and have viewed that as what I should do.”
Lund, age 52, has been considered one of Norway’s most powerful people in her role as NHO boss. Now she’ll return to Schibsted as probably Norway’s most high-profile female executives, at a time when Schibsted itself is undergoing a reorganization that will spin off its international classified advertising division into a separate company. Investors reacted to the news of both the reorganization and Lund’s appointment, sending Schibsted shares up 11 percent on the Oslo Stock Exchange.
Lund’s appointment was met with jubilation internally at Schibsted. Aftenposten’s outgoing editor and commentator Harald Stanghelle, who recently announced his resignation amidst criticism of Schibsted’s management and a lack of resources for the news organization, claimed there was no better choice to take over Schibsted than Lund. Others think the reorganization will strengthen the news operations at Schibsted, which also owns major national tabloid VG, regional Norwegian newspapers and websites in Stavanger and Bergen, and Swedish newspapers Aftonbladet and Svenska Dagbladet in addition to other media outlets.
Strengthening news operations
Lund herself said she was looking forward to take over as chief of Schibsted’s Nordic operations that also include the popular advertising site finn.no. “I feel like I grew up in Schibsted, I know the organization well and know that it has an important role in society,” Lund told Aftenposten. “I will do my best to give the newspapers what they need to carry out their work.”
She fears that a concentration of large digital players like Google and Facebook puts too much power in too few hands, and poses a challenge for democracy. “It’s demanding to compete against Google and Facebook, but that’s what Schibsted will do,” Lund said.
Digital innovation is critical, she claimed, even though it forces uncomfortable change upon both employees and customers: “Everyone has some resistance to change, including me, and it’s all about taking the necessary steps to develop ourselves, even when it’s uncomfortable.”
She said it was sad to leave NHO after six “fantastic and meaningful years.” She’s expected to assume the helm at Schibsted later this fall, after completing a sabbatical of sorts at Norway’s defense college, itself a program in which many Norwegian leaders participate and rub elbows at mid-career.