Top management team quits Bellona

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Norway’s high-profile environmental foundation Bellona lost its entire management group this week after a disagreement with Bellona’s founder Frederic Hauge. Their mass resignation follows a year of unsuccessful discussions over strategy and leadership under Hauge.

Bellona founder Frederic Hauge, shown here speaking against oil drilling off Northern Norway, downplayed Bellona’s management defection, claiming on NRK’s national newscast that he holds “great responsibility” for the environmental foundation. PHOTO: Bellona

“This is all about whether a management group shall function as a group, and a question of how much Frederic shall decide,” Nils Bøhmer, who held the title of daglig leder (general manager), told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Tuesday.

Bellona itself issued a statement on Monday revealing that Hauge has wanted Bellona’s board to “revise” a new strategy and management model for the environmental foundation that was adopted last fall.

“That has consequences for how the operation is led, and based on that, the management group chose to resign as of Monday,” read the statement. It added that “new leaders” will be presented for the organization next week.

Hauge clearly doesn’t want to release his grip on Bellona that he founded in 1986. The organization most recently has had a staff of around 50 working at its offices in Oslo, Brussels, Murmansk and St Petersburg but its bylaws give Hauge broad powers. DN reported that Bellona’s board consists of five members and three substitute members. Hauge himself chooses the board’s leader, two of its members and two of its substitutes, giving him a majority at all times. Board decisions can take effect even when only three members are present.

Nils Bøhmer worked with Hauge at Bellona for 25 years but left the foundation with his management group. PHOTO: Bellona

Bøhmer declined to comment on details of the disagreement between Hauge and the management team, which according to Bellona’s website has consisted of Bøhmer, finance director Anders Strand, marketing and communications director Hanne Løvstad and professional director Runa Haug Khoury. Nor would whether Bøhmer say whether a specific issue unleashed the mass management exit.

“It has been difficult for both sides and we have tried to come to terms,” Bøhmer, who worked with Hauge for 25 years, told DN. “We didn’t manage.” He conceded that he didn’t want to quit and that he and his management colleagues “would have gladly continued doing the job we’ve done.” He added, however, that Bellona was a “robust organization” that would “get through this.”

Hauge himself appeared on Norwegian Broadasting (NRK)’s national nightly newscast Dagsrevyen Monday evening and downplayed the management defection. He claimed such changes are common in any organization and that he holds “great responsibility” for making sure Bellona “develops itself.” He also declined, however, to detail the nature of his dispute with his former management team.

“I have great respect for the work Nils (Bøhmer) has done,” the 53-year-old Hauge, who left high school at the age of 17 to join the environmental movement, told both NRK and DN. “We have worked together for 25 years. It’s an honest and straightforward decision that we split up now, and that the rest of the management group has followed (Bøhmer). There are no hard feelings on my side.”

Asked whether he has been too dominant within the organization, Hauge told DN he had not evaluated whether that was a problem. “I’m used to having discussions around me,” said Hauge, adding that he had not felt challenged or pressured as Bellona’s top leader. “I feel we have had a good dialogue.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund