Fred Olsen is both the owner of Timex as well as its most effective watch designer. He s likewise a first-rate sailor and an oil industry leader as well as was reported to have motivated a Simpsons character. Now he s leading a change in offshore wind.

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Fred Olsen is experiencing again the day he escaped to sea. The 86-year-old Norwegian billionaire is revealing me around the museum-like head office of his company empire when he stops next to a glass-encased version of the Bruno, the fruit ship he boarded in January 1949, simply days after his 20th birthday. As the scion of a Norwegian delivery empire co-founded by his great-grandfather as well as named for his great-granduncle, the initial Fred Olsen, he can have taken the predictable course of the privileged. His own daddy, Thomas, had actually attended Cambridge and also run the family members business regardless of never having worked with a ship. However Olsen made a decision to chart his very own course. Rather than going to university, he invested even more compared to 2 years exploring the world aboard the Bruno and also various other vessels, shipping bananas from the Canary Islands to Scandinavia and also cognac from Bordeaux to the Mediterranean. He labored in lowly positions, as a deck hand and also a "greaser," the sailor that fixes the auxiliary engine that produces power. Along the road he researched the watercrafts' mechanical systems as well as observed exactly how payload was managed. "It was much better than an MBA, much better compared to an design degree," says Olsen, his pale-blue eyes, mounted with rimless glasses, shimmering as he recalls life on the Bruno. "No diploma can resemble that education.".
The globe of company is not populated with several absolutely unique thinkers-- except, of course, on top of some of its most innovative companies. Consider other non-- university graduates that took a extreme technique as well as stayed with it fearlessly: Steve Jobs developed world-changing items at Apple. Costs Gates followed his passion for setting to construct Microsoft, the world's largest software program company. And Sir Richard Branson has battled the facility in every little thing from music to airlines.
Like them, Olsen is a daydreamer who acts-- and seldom follows the anticipated script. Heir to a delivery ton of money, Olsen guided the family members companies in a new instructions, initial leading the North Sea oil change, then turneding into one of the world's primary leaders in wind power. However that's merely the start of his tale. Provided his over-the-top life experiences, possibly it's Olsen, not the bearded adventurer from the Dos Equis draft beer commercials, which is truly "The Most Interesting Man in the World.".
In the late 1960s, Olsen led the first Norwegian group to pierce for oil in the North Sea. Soon after that, his business's rig made the very first discovery in Ekofisk, one of the biggest deepwater oilfields ever developed. Olsen also co-founded Norway's first personal oil company, Saga Petroleum, as well as rallied the Norwegian market to develop know-how in oilfield services and products, a program that aided make his homeland among the wealthiest nations in the world.
Because he branched out right into eco-friendly power in the 1990s, Olsen's companies have spent greater than $1 billion in wind power. Olsen is now the biggest independent, suggesting non-utility, company of wind power in Britain. Today he's concentrating on the fastest-growing market in renewables: offshore wind. His firms set up one in 5 new offshore turbines in 2014 in Europe, the globe's largest market. He's also installing the initial sea-based wind farm in the united state, located off the shore of Rhode Island.
When he's not interfering with the power sector, Olsen doubles as among history's most successful watch designers. He and also his daughter Anette, 58, command as well as run Timex Group, which has had a hard time a little bit lately but still ranks as the No. 2 vendor of watches in united state, behind Fossil. It was Olsen himself that almost produced the sports watch category when he dreamed up the very popular Ironman Triathlon in the mid-1980s. A couple of years later on he brought illumination to watches with the Indiglo night-light. As well as in 1994 he launched a groundbreaking " wise watch," the Data Link, co-developed with Microsoft.
Left: One of Olsen's Aker semi-submersible oil boring rigs in 1974. Right: An Olsen "jack-up" vessel mounts a wind generator off the shore of GermanyPhotos: Courtesy of Fred Olsen.
As befits a guy which when escaped to sea, Olsen is likewise a world-class sailor. He victoried the globe championship in International One Design, a class of 33-foot boats, in 1959 as well as 1960. After a break long lasting decades he presented a resurgence, completing a encouraging 3rd, in a strict surface, in the 2014 Norwegian champions. As a concession to his age, nowadays he uses a construction safety helmet onboard. "I need defense because I keep getting struck by the boom," he explains.
Olsen's tale is not renowneded, in component because-- despite having Norway's biggest business paper publisher-- he has actually spent a lot of his lengthy job avoiding the media spotlight. Just recently he provided Fortune the initial comprehensive job interviews he's ever carried out. Throughout practically 2 full days of conversations in his workplaces-- housed in a structure built in 1710 that occupies an entire city block in a historical district of Oslo as well as approach Fred. Olsen Street-- Olsen was open and also blunt, particularly regarding his enthusiasm for renewable resource.
Although previous partners say Olsen is a extremely hard entrepreneur, in our conversations he never discussed earnings and hardly ever cited numbers when discussing his latest investments. For Olsen, renewable resource is a lot more an honest calls than a business imperative. His lengthy encounter in petroleum manufacturing persuades him that the world isn't encountering a shortage of oil and even a future of ultrahigh rates. But renewables are crucial, he claims, to counter international warming. "If this warming continues, the oceans will certainly rise, and the area we're sitting now, and several cities, will be under water," says Olsen, who drives a Tesla Model S. His principal crusade is protecting the Arctic from the exploration as well as delivery website traffic that crack the polar icecap. "I used to fly over the North Pole, as well as all you viewed was thick, white ice, fractured like the surface area of an aged painting," he claims. "Now you see bunches of black water, which increases the heating of the seas.".
Olsen at one of his firm's wind farms in Scotland in 2006. Image: Courtesy of Fred Olsen.
Olsen views himself primarily as a designer and innovator whose background in the power business enables him to be eager. "My absence of a formal education is a terrific benefit," he says in his gently accented English. "I'm not held back by academic restraints. I think a lot more generally, and fret about the engineering specifics later on." While others wring their hands regarding climate change, Olsen intends to do his component to static the problem by creating a design for scaling up renewable-energy resources. It would be merely the current chapter in a life of remarkable tales.
It was a slim getaway. On April 9, 1940, the day the Nazis got into Norway, 11-year-old Fred, accompanied by his mother and also another family members, skied across the Dovre Mountains to the Atlantic fjords, where they complied with up with his father, Thomas. The Olsens captured a British destroyer to the Orkney Islands. "I rode into Orkney straddling a torpedo," claims Fred. The family members cleared up in Ossining, a New York City suburban area on the Hudson River, and also Fred attended neighboring preparation institutions. "I still use the wool trousers from Abercrombie & Fitch from 1942," states Olsen. "They still match, and also they're hard as heck." A regular site visitor in Ossining was close household pal and also fellow Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl, 5 years before his fabled 1947 voyage throughout the Pacific on the plethora Kon-Tiki. If you loved this short article and you would like to receive additional details with regards to Jonathan E Olsen kindly stop by our website. "I would certainly view him at our pool in a swimsuit, standing in the drenching rain, metaling himself versus the threats of lightning," says Olsen.
An determined anti-Nazi, Thomas Olsen had pleaded fruitless for Norway to equip itself versus a German infiltration and sent most of the family cash money to the U.S. prior to the Nazis took Oslo. In 1941, Thomas paid $500,000 to acquire a bulk passion in a Connecticut-based producer of bomb merges for the British government, the Waterbury Clock Co. A couple of years later Thomas Olsen would rechristen the company Timex. He hatched the iconic name from an unusual convergence of sources. Recalls Fred: "My papa consistently enjoyed to noodle with words. He suched as to review Time publication, and also he made use of a great deal of Kleenex, so he placed both names together as well as acquired Timex.".
All on the wrist: At timex, Olsen has actually conceived some major items. A few of his greatest smash hits, from left: DATA LINK: Developed with Microsoft in 1994, it was a innovative " clever watch"; INDIGLO: Introduced in 1992, the night-light remains a signature feature of many timex watches; IRONMAN TRIATHLON: Olsen aided save Timex in the 1980's with this pioneering expect runners. It's still a bestseller.Photos: Courtesy of Timex Group.
Thomas Olsen was additionally a terrific patron of the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. When the Olsens got away Norway they left considerably of their collection, consisting of a well known version of Munch's renowned "The Scream," concealed in a barn, where it remained throughout the war. Fred's much younger sibling, Petter, would certainly later on win "The Scream," and also the majority of the family members's various other Munch spray paintings, in a bitter inheritance battle with Fred. He marketed it in 2012 to billionaire Leon Black for $120 million, then the highest rate ever paid for a masterpiece at auction. Fred offered most of his collection in 2006 for $29.5 million, though two Munch paintings hang in his Oslo residence today.
The family members went back to Norway after the battle, and Thomas Olsen reconstructed the shipping company, which dates from 1848, while preserving ownership of Timex. Yet in 1955, Thomas endured a major movement, as well as Fred, at age 26, organized the family members company realm.
It had not been also long just before Olsen sensed a significant possibility. In the very early 1960s discoveries of organic gas in the British industry of the North Sea persuaded Olsen that the seabed in between Scotland, Denmark, and Norway covered large reserves of oil. In 1965 he formed a consortium of delivery, insurance coverage, and also industrial companies to obtain exploration licenses in Norway's North Sea. The Norwegian Oil Consortium, or Noco, victoried just what would certainly end up being rewarding concessions. "I had the fancy idea that Norway can be a great oil country," he claims. In 1967, Noco, together with Amoco as well as various other partners, retrofitted an old whaling vessel to explore for oil, punching a few of the first test gaps in Norway's industry of the North Sea.
The Olsens had long controlled Aker, a large shipbuilding issue. As chairman, Olsen steered Aker into the burgeoning field of structure semi-submersible drilling rigs, which rest on huge pontoons. Aker produced the initial semi-submersible ever before built in Norway, the Ocean Viking. Phillips Petroleum leased the rig, and also in 1969 it made the first oil discovery in the North Sea, in just what became the large Ekofisk field. It would turned into one of the biggest overseas oilfields of its time, helping to bring in oil majors to the region.
Influenced by the Ekofisk discovery, Olsen pushed Aker to totally change its business. "I heard that in the Yukon gold rush, it had not been merely individuals that discovered gold who got rich, it was the proprietors of the whorehouses," says Olsen "We would like to provide the customer services and also products the overseas drillers needed most." Aker's specialty had been constructing payload ships as well as tankers. Olsen made a decision to concentrate on constructing rigs particularly made for the battering waves of the North Sea. Encouraging the troops supplied a lasting session in management. "Most business have significant difficulty changing to one more product group," he says. "The managers fight throughout since they're afraid they won't hold such an raised position in the new pyramid." In the long run he dominated, and also the super-rugged Aker H-3 rig became the workhorse of the North Sea.
Over the years Olsen has demonstrated a remarkable instinct for catching trends, riding them to the top, as well as exiting at the crest. Consider his timing in tankers. From the mid-1960s to the very early 1970s, Olsen dropped nearly his entire fleet of ships in a sturdy market. In January 1973, Olsen observed that tanker prices had tripled in 5 years. Being afraid a excess, he marketed three tankers to GATX of united state for $25.5 million, today's matching of $130 million. He was both clever and also lucky. Months later the OPEC dilemma tripled oil costs as well as sank the vessel market. His run proceeded with Aker. In 1985 cement maker Norcem acquired Aker as oil floated around $30 each barrel. Olsen gathered some $110 million. Within a year crude rates went down as reduced as $12.
Today Olsen's businesses fall under 2 major classifications: power as well as Timex. His daughter Anette normally takes the CEO function at the family members firms, with Fred working as chairman. They've collaborated very closely for 30 years: Fred makes a decision what large styles to adhere to, and also Anette directs procedures. Olsen claims just a tiny possession share in his family members business, yet he's long exercised strong administration control over all of them. Today those firms produce around $2.5 billion in sales and also even more than $500 million in money circulation.
In power the Olsens manage a network of enterprises reaching petroleum and also renewables. Fred. Olsen Energy, their oil solutions firm, has and rents vessels to large companies such as Chevron as well as Anadarko. Over the past several years it's been very rewarding, creating $395 million in money circulation after interest and also tax obligations in 2014. (For all the Fred. Olsen companies, the period after Fred signifies that it's an abbreviation of Fredrik.) Crude's totally free fall over the past many months, nonetheless, has harmed its stock cost. Considering that very early in 2014, FOE's shares have lost from $33 to around $9, decreasing the firm's market cap from $2.2 billion to $600 million.
Right: Olsen functioning on a payload ship in the 1950s. Left: Sailing solo off the Norwegian shore. The former world champion lately began racing again.Photos: Courtesy of Fred Olsen.
Olsen isn't really particularly concerned about the dive in oil costs. He's viewed those patterns just before. "What rises needs to come down," he claims. "But when prices drop also swiftly, they have the tendency to increase swiftly. The drop was too significant, and as a outcome, there's insufficient drilling." Olsen anticipates a globe where oil hovers around $65, a price that needs to revive share prices in the drill rig sector. That's if demand from China continues to be fairly stable. If China's oil consumption spikes, claims Olsen, he believes rates will rise well over $65.
The Olsens regulate Fred. Olsen Energy with a publicly traded holding firm, Bonheur. Its major investments are 52 % of FOE and 100 % of Olsen's two major green-energy companies, and also Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, whose four ships carry practically 100,000 visitors a year on tours of the Caribbean as well as various other bright locations. In the meantime, the bigger green venture is Fred. Olsen Renewables, or FOR, a builder and also operator of onshore wind ranches. FOR has all the projects it develops. Its six farms in Britain supply around 7 % of the nation's wind power, and also 7 more websites that are authorized or unfinished, in Scotland and Scandinavia, will practically triple its outcome of electrical power.
The overseas wind arm is Fred. Olsen Ocean (FOO). FOO and its subsidiaries supply all the labor and vessels called for to mount wind farms mixed-up. Unlike its sibling, FOR, FOO does not own the jobs it constructs; it's strictly a service provider in a fast-growing field. The autumn in oil rates isn't really injuring renewables, since they profit from rich aids offered by Germany as well as the U.K., amongst various other countries. The wind companies are extremely profitable, producing $132 million in money flow on $307 million in sales for 2014.
The energy side of business additionally consists of Harland and Wolff, the shipyard in Belfast that developed the Titanic; it now creates and builds systems for both the oil and also renewable-energy markets, from offshore rigs to wind turbines. Then there is Olsen's 11,000-acre domain name in Scotland, known as the Forrest Estate, where the general public is invited, for a cost, to appreciate pheasant searching and trout angling. The rustic premises are the home of his renewables getting in touch with branch, Natural Power, where 100 staff members operate in offices covered by a grass roof covering to conserve warmth, a feature Olsen adjusted from the ranches of Norway.
Timex, Olsen's 2nd big holding, is a excellent brand name in requirement of revival. Since 2010 the international watch market has shown strong development, progressing more compared to 30 % to around $70 billion in retail sales. Timex, nonetheless, has missed the wave. Traditionally the privately possessed producer focused on low-cost, long lasting, mass-market timepieces. However today numerous younger consumers rely upon their smartphones to tell time, and also the just-the-basics Timex franchise business has experienced. The development location is in higher-end wrist watches. Think is the firm's premier fashion brand, and also recently it has been losing ground to flashier additional competitors such as Michael Kors, made by Fossil. A large press into high-end has consulted blended outcomes, leading Timex to lose its costs Valentino and Vincent B�rard brands.
Timex remains profitable, yet both profits as well as sales are going the incorrect way. Around 2010, Timex was gaining $80 million on sales of $800 million. "Both turnover and also profits are less than they were," says Olsen, who decreases to cite exact numbers.
Olsen has rescued Timex from tough times in the past. In the very early 1980s the company was near death. Its excellent days on the back of a famous advertising campaign--"It takes a licking as well as maintains on ticking"-- had actually vanished with impressive speed as the firm adhered to mechanical watches when the globe went digital. In between 1979 and 1983, Timex's labor force reduced from 30,000 to 6,000. And in 1984 it shed $120 million. Olsen started spending every various other week in Connecticut. "I 'd make telephone calls to Europe from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m., then go to work at Timex up until 6 p.m.," he claims.
His visibility galvanized and horrified employees in equal measure. Each early morning he 'd race right into the parking area in a pre-owned Oldsmobile 98 sedan, then dashed upstairs to his office. "It was like he never rested," claims one previous staff member. "He might be truly rugged when he was mad about something. He might shame you. However you knew why, and you recognized you 'd screwed up. If you were as passionate as he was, he enjoyed you, however if not, you were gone." In quieter minutes Olsen would certainly amuse employees regarding the lost city of Atlantis or Heyerdahl's discoveries. They called such sessions " visiting the moon.".
Olsen's interest was additional products, as well as his developments conserved Timex. "I noticed folks running, also in the warmth in Houston," says Olsen. "Yet the sports establishments hadn't maintained, as well as I assumed they would." He viewed an chance to profit from a expanding fitness trend as well as thought of the Ironman Triathlon, which by the late 1980s became the bestselling watch in America and also remains a Timex staple. In 1992, Olsen pioneered another hallmark feature-- Indiglo, a paper-thin radiant movie that, when you touch a switch, adds a environment-friendly or blue night-light.
Regardless of its present troubles, Timex preserves 2 big benefits: prowess in modern technology as well as expertise in sports views as the purveyor of the Ironman Triathlon. The firm is mixing those 2 toughness in a appealing brand-new product called the Timex Ironman One GPS+. It's a mix sporting activities as well as smartwatch designed for runners, and it's the initial watch that does not need a mobile phone to link to a wireless network. Joggers could leave their smart phones at residence as well as still hear tunes via the watch as well as track their speed as well as check e-mails. "This is a great chance for us," claims Anette.
So just what is the value of the Olsen empire? Fred Olsen informs Fortune that he offered all the shares in his business to counts on for Anette and also his other three youngsters, a kid and 2 even more little girls, in the 1960s. For a wealthy energy tycoon, he's a version of frugality. "I live off my income as well as pension, never ever off my capital," he says. "And it's absolutely nothing like exactly what you view in America. In Norway they do not like folks who make a great deal of money." Overall, the family's.
possession share in the energy enterprises is much less than $500 million, a large decrease from in 2014 due to the fall in shares at Fred. Olsen Energy. Given the unpredictable nature of oil prices, it's more logical to base Olsen's power wealth on the total assets, or book equity, of the companies-- the value of the ships, rigs, as well as other properties, minus debt. In oil and also renewables, the family members's equity stake stands at around $800 million.
Fred's family members shares its ownership in Timex with the household of his brother, Petter, via a rely on based in Liechtenstein. Timex is probably worth something a lot more compared to a regular valuation of once sales, just as a result of its wonderful brand. So a reasonable worth for Timex is $1 billion, with Fred's family share worth $500 million. Adding their Timex holdings to the energy passions' publication value of $800 million, the household's wide range comes to $1.3 billion approximately, not including the Forrest Estate as well as other outdoors holdings. If oil prices rebound, that number will shoot up again.
If you believe that Fred Olsen looks acquainted, you have a lot of company. His narrow aquiline visage and also bald pate offer him an astounding resemblance to C. Montgomery Burns, the tyrannical tycoon in the animated comedy The Simpsons. As a result of the similarity, a rumor began years ago that the program's creator, Matt Groening, had modeled Burns, in extremely caricatured type, on Olsen. The story was often stated as reality in journalism. It became an city legend in Oslo and offered fodder for Timex's unions when they feuded with Olsen. In my chats with him, it was clear that even Olsen himself believed he 'd been the motivation for the Burns character. Now, nevertheless, Fortune can finally lay the story to remainder. Via email, Groening told Fortune that any similarity between Burns and also Olsen is "totally coincidental." When I educated Olsen on a current telephone call, he paused for several seconds just before blurting out, "I'm happy!"The ultra-green Olsen saw it as specifically unsettling to be connected with a personality that owns a nuclear reactor. Most of his interest today is concentrated on hatching out new technology in wind power. "We began with the belief that we would certainly take our knowledge in delivery, exploration, as well as shipyards, as well as bring that know-how and ability to offshore," he says. The overseas wind market is still little compared with onshore, but it's expanding much quicker. Winds are stronger and steadier offshore. While it's commonly hard to find that areas-- and safeguard the licenses-- for onshore ranches, and also governments limit the size of the turbines, offshore deals with no such restrictions. Hence, it's where lots of giant, industrial-size tasks of the future will develop. Federal governments are hungry for wind, especially in Europe. Germany is phasing out nuclear power and also prepares to fill the gap mainly with wind farms mixed-up. The U.K. wants to triple its manufacturing of renewable power to 15 % by 2020. To obtain there, it's greatly promoting overseas wind. Though Europe is still the largest offshore market, China as well as Japan are pledging hefty federal government support for wind farms that will certainly squeeze their coastlines.
The challenge is offshore's high expenses, greatly driven by the incredible cost of setting up substantial wind turbines-- carried by costly ships-- into the sea floor. Olsen is discovering ways to significantly lower the expense of installment. Amongst his several innovations, two are especially vital. The very first is a possibly big breakthrough in the structures that support huge turbines. Today one of the most typical method for mounting wind turbines is battering them 130 feet into the ocean floor with gigantic hammers that lease for $100,000 a day. Olsen believed that a Danish start-up called Universal Foundation supplied a much much better remedy, so in 2010 he acquired the business. The Universal foundations run on a suction system. A pump produces a vacuum that sinks the skirt, or pail, right into the seabed. The skirt burrows into the soil and stone like a beer mug pushed right into the sand. "It advised me of the suction supports we utilized on the offshore rigs," claims Olsen. Today prospective customers are extensively checking the modern technology offshore. The brand-new foundations can reduce setup times, from 18 months to 12, and also lesser prices 20 %.
Second, the Olsen team has developed a brand-new generation of "wind carriers" that make the construction procedure much more efficient. "Fred was around the design," claims Rolf Normann, CEO of Fred. Olsen Ocean. Forecasting larger and also bigger wind turbines, he demanded making deck area both incredibly large as well as away from blockage. The installation ships have high "jack-up" legs that loom high above the deck when the vessels are relocating. When the ship is parked, the legs descend, planting their feet in the sea floor and also turning the ship into a secure workstation.
Six-legged ships are usual in the sector. Olsen firmly insisted that his brand-new ones make use of only 4. That leaves even more complimentary space for carrying turbines. The huge crane that raises the wind turbines straddles one of the legs as an alternative of sitting on its own, conserving still even more deck area. The 2 new ships, the Brave Tern and Bold Tern, recently completed among the most eager tasks in overseas record-- the Global Tech 1 advancement in the North Sea off the coast of Germany. Both ships installed 75 of the project's 80 generators; Global Tech will supply electrical energy for 330,000 families in northern Germany.
Back in his office, Olsen is showing on his lengthy profession, in which change has actually been nearly the only constant. "Both items as well as family members businesses obey life patterns," he states. "My mother's household was in fishhooks and horseshoe nails. Those companies reoccured. That's why it's so important to capture the wave, to keep innovating, maintain transforming." In Olsen's instance, that's been the plan for a most intriguing life.