The hedge fund billionaire set to take the top job at Norway’s giant sovereign wealth fund in a week’s time last night agreed to relinquish his remaining stake in AKO Capital entirely as a new employment contract was drawn up in response to parliamentary demands.
Norges Bank announced at a press conference in Oslo yesterday evening that its executive board and the incoming CEO of Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) – the central bank arm running the NOK10.3tln (€972bn) Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) – had renegotiated the terms of Tangen’s employment contract.
Under the new agreement, the bank said Tangen is to divest himself of his holding in AKO Capital – his hedge fund-led fund management firm – transferring it to the charitable entity AKO Foundation which he established seven years ago.
Tangen’s management agreement with Gabler Investment will also change so that his fund investments are liquidated and the proceeds held as bank deposits, Norges Bank said.
The complex arrangement previously agreed as part of Tangen’s job contract sought to put him at a distance from his vast financial interests, creating an “information barrier” in order to address politicians’ key concern of potential conflicts of interest while he was NBIM CEO.
However, in this new agreement, Norges Bank said Tangen will no longer have any ownership interest in AKO Capital, and that this will apply in perpetuity.
Tangen said: “I have taken these actions to remove any doubt about which hat I am now wearing. I want to be CEO of the oil fund, and have only one objective: creating wealth for future generations.”
Øystein Olsen, chair of Norges Bank’s executive board and the central bank’s governor, said the agreement addressed the concerns raised by the Storting’s (parliament) Finance Committee on the contract of employment with the new CEO.
The committee made a series of demands on Friday, which Finance Minister Jan Tore Sanner was to present to the Norges Bank board.
The cross-party panel said the head of NBIM could not have any ownership or interests that created – or could appear to create – conflicts of interest that could weaken the trust in, and reputation of, Norges Bank.
It also said the new CEO could not have interests that could weaken the GPFG’s work with tax and transparency – a demand prompted by the use of tax havens by some of entities in the AKO group.
Sanner, who had previously said Norway’s central bank law stopped him from telling the Norges Bank board what to do in the CEO appointment process, gained new legal clout at the last minute when the Ministry of Justice and Public Security’s Legislation Department said on Friday that there were “good indications” the act did not prevent him instructing the executive board on the matter.
Norges Bank said now that matters have been clarified and agreed, Tangen would be able to take office on 1 September, but that the actual implementation will take “somewhat more time”.
Olsen said: “The executive board has been of the opinion that the contractual framework surrounding Tangen’s employment contract was sufficient in preventing potential conflicts of interest, but we have noted, of course, that the Storting takes a different view.
“Their concerns are something the executive board, in dialogue with Nicolai Tangen, has now addressed,” he said.