Gunhild and Petter Stordalen, one of Norway’s wealthiest and most high-profile couples, surprised business associates and many others when they issued a statement late Sunday that they were separating. Speculation has swirled over what the split will mean for their professional relationship, not least since they sit together on several boards of directors, but he contends they’re “fine” and she claims they’ll remain “best friends.”
“They have been a fantastic couple, who have supported and prodded each other,” Sune Nordgren, one of their business partners and art consultants, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Tuesday. The 40-year-old Gunhild Stordalen, educated as a doctor, has been seriously ill with what was believed to be a terminal disease, but she recovered after extensive treatment abroad, and has been back in the public spotlight, not least at large gatherings of her foundation Eat, which promotes a more sustainable food industry.
Petter Stordalen, age 56, has also been generating headlines again when he recently became part of the group taking over the Ving travel businesses after its previous owner, UK-based Thomas Cook, declared bankruptcy. He’s best known, through his Strawberry investment group, as the flamboyant owner of the Nordic Choice Hotels chain. Stordalen also owns a large portfolio of commercial real estate, a 12.5 percent stake in the Hurtigruten passenger shipping line, 50 percent of a large public relations firm, Storm Communications, and he recently went into the publishing business.
“It’s sad that they’re now separating,” Nordgren, former head of Norway’s National Gallery, told DN, “but I hope they can continue to work together.” He has worked closely with both of them and advised Stordalen as he accumulated a large art collection that newspaper Finansavisen has valued at NOK 400 million (USD 44 million).
Nordgren also sits on the board of the Stordalen Foundation that Petter Stordalen initially funded as a wedding gift for Gunhild when they married in 2010. It’s behind the Eat foundation that brings top politicians, business executives and academics together to work for a healthier and more environmentally friendly food industry. Petter Stordalen’s three grown children from a previous marriage (Emilie, Henrik and Jakob) also have seats on the board.
Gunhild Stordalen issued a press release on Sunday in which she stated that the couple has “had 14 fantastic years together.” She wrote that they have “stood side-by-side in extreme up- and downturns,” which means that they “will always have a completely unique relationship.” She went on to write that they each have “job projects,” however, that have led to them having less time together. She wrote that each of them wants time to pursue their individual projects, while concluding that “we are still each other’s best friends and supporters.”
Neither would initially comment beyond the statement, nor would the Choice hotel group’s spokesperson on Monday. Ida Holen of Choice told DN and other media that the couple did not want to make another further comments. On Tuesday, however, they both issued short additional statements on social media to thank supporters and claim that they were doing well despite going their separate ways. Petter Stordalen also told Swedish newspaper Expressen last week that Gunhild’s “market” had expanded well beyond Oslo and Stockholm, and she needed time away to follow her professional dreams. He said that what the couple had lost “is what we had in the beginning, time together.”
Newspaper VG reported several years ago that the couple had a pre-nuptial agreement that would give Gunhild Stordalen more than NOK 100 million in cash in the event of a divorce. The amount reportedly would be paid regardless of who took the initiative to a separation. DN reported that it was unclear whether the agreement had been altered or updated during the nine years since their marriage.
Norway’s recently released public tax lists for 2018 show Stordalen with taxable net worth of NOK 579 million. Gunhild Stordalen was listed with taxable net worth of NOK 444,534.