As a small Nordic island nation, Iceland has been gradually making its mark on the world stage.
Among the nation’s most notable citizens is Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson, a man who commands global attention.
The Only Icelandic Billionaire
How so, you ask? Well, Björgólfsson is the only billionaire Iceland has to offer, but its more than just that. He made his fortune, lost everything, then built it up again from scratch.
Björgólfsson turned 40 in 2007, and for this milestone, he chartered a Boeing 767 to Jamaica, flying 120 friends to the Caribbean country for the celebration. For entertainment, 50 Cent and Ziggy Marley were present.
Back then, Björgólfsson was among the 250 richest individuals in the world. It had taken him a mere ten years to achieve this feat, with businesses spread across various countries in the world, including the US.
Come 2008, the financial crisis plunged the globe into extremely difficult economic times, and Björgólfsson lost most of his assets. He is already a billionaire yet again, a fact that most people find quite interesting.
Interesting because for four generations now, the Björgólfsson patriarchs have been going bankrupt and recovering from it, and Thor seems to have kept up the family tradition.
The liquor business has been his light at the end of the tunnel, a business that seems typically Icelandic, don’t you agree?
The budding entrepreneur came into the world in 1967, on March 19, born in Reykjavik, Iceland. His family had long established itself in both politics and business, with his great-grandfather Thor Jensen having introduced capitalism in Iceland in the early years of the 20th century.
His mother’s husband, George Lincoln Rockwell, founded the Nazi Party in America. Rockwell, however, was not Thor’s dad.
Thor Jensen, this time Björgólfsson’s grandfather, went bankrupt twice and bounced back each time, and his family went on hold the family name high. One son rose to the position of Prime Minister in Iceland, while the other became the nation’s ambassador to the United States.
Björgólfsson’s mom married thrice – first to a field athlete, then to Rockwell, then finally to Thor’s dad. The elder Thor was a shrewd businessman, who rose to the helm of Hafskip, one of the largest shipping companies in Iceland at the time.
Unfortunately, he was arrested and found guilty of fraud as well as embezzlement, and sentenced to probation of no less than 12 months. Needless to say, this encounter with the authorities tarnished his reputation.
The Path to Redemption
Lucky for him, young Björgólfsson was psyched up enough to redeem his dad, and also go on to make a name for himself. The young man went to college in the United States, and then moved to Russia after graduation.
This was in the ’90s, at the time when USSR was all but a collapsed state. Björgólfsson started a beverage company, developing a soft drink for a decade then ventured into beer. The fact that his business flourished in what was otherwise a failed state-led to rumors of Russian mafia ties, an accusation that the billionaire has always denied.
Success seemed to follow him everywhere, but that was until 2008 when the financial crisis rendered Iceland’s currency worthless. This, and the fact that Björgólfsson was in a ton of debt, with his assets as security. Now that they had no value, the man was literally bankrupt.
4 years ago, Björgólfsson regained his billionaire status having paid all monies he owed. This was largely thanks to a merger with Watson Pharmaceuticals and Actavis, where Thor had 4.3 million shares in the latter company.
These were worth $700 million, which allowed Björgólfsson to clear his debts. Currently, he is worth at least $2.2 billion.