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Billionaire Bjorgolfsson climbs higher on Forbes list

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Billionaire Bjorgolfsson climbs higher on Forbes list

Bjorgolfur Thor Bjorgolfsson

Iceland's "lone" billionaire has jumped up 138 places on the Forbes list. According to the newly released list, Bjorgolfur Thor, 39, is worth USD 2.2 billion. The magazine lists his fortune as "self made" and "diversified." His residence is listed in London and Russia.

Together with two business partners, Bjorgolfur Thor bought a controlling stake in the former state-owned bank Landsbanki in a controversial privatization in 2002.

An excerpt from Forbes' entry on Bjorgolfur Thor: "Iceland's lone billionaire. Co-founded Bravo brewery in Russia and created popular Botchkarov beer brand. Sold to Heineken in February 2002. Used proceeds to go on a buying spree in native Iceland and in Eastern Europe. Set up an investment company, Novator, in London that has been very active buying stakes in telecom sector. In past year, through Novator and other entities, has upped stake in his most valuable holding, Icelandic drug company Actavis; bought out one of his two Icelandic partners; purchased Bulgaria's EI Bank; invested in Finnish telecom Elisa; and announced plans to exercise option to boost holding in Bulgarian Telecommunications company. Also owns hotels on Black Sea Coast and land in Spain. Lives in London with girlfriend of 15 years and their one-year-old son."

Several prominent international news organizations have questioned the origins of Bjorgolfur Thor's wealth in Russia.

In November 2002, the magazine Euromoney featured a story on Bjorgolfur Thor and his dealings in Russia.

In an article published June 16 last year, the British daily The Guardian observed that Bjorgolfur Thor and his business partners in Russia had ploughed "money into the country...in the city regarded as the Russian mafia capital. That investment was being made in the drinks sector, seen by the mafia as the industry of choice."

On January 8, 2006, the German daily die Welt quoted an unnamed German business man in Bulgaria saying that Bjorgolfur Thor was “a lackey of the Russian mafia.”

According to various reports in the Icelandic media, Bjorgolfur Thor is currently engaged in a boardroom battle with Magnús Kristinsson for control of investment bank Straumur-Burdarás. The conflict began last week when the board convened for the first time after the annual general shareholder meeting. Magnús was dethroned as vice-chairman in a move Magnús claims was orchestrated by the chairman of Straumur-Burdarás, Bjorgolfur Thor.

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