Meet the world's youngest billionaire from Norway who loves dressage
A British-educated teenager with a passion for dressage has, for the first time, been named as the world's youngest billionaire
Published 02/03/2016 | 09:06
The world's youngest billionaire has not sprung from the tech enclaves of Silicon Valley, nor is she a young Hollywood hotshot. She is not a household name, and yet at the age of just 19 she has amassed a fortune of $1.2bn (€1.1bn).
Alexandra Andresen, a professional dressage rider from Norway who has previously attended a British boarding school, is named by Forbes magazine as the youngest billionaire on their annual list. The magazine has compiled a record of all people worth at least a billion dollars, and Miss Andresen is for the first time among those listed.
Of the 1,810 people on the list, she is ranked 1,476th.
Aged 11, she spent a year at Forres Sandle Manor boarding school in the Hampshire town of Fordingbridge with her sister Katharina - now 20, and the second youngest person on the list. Intriguingly, the third youngest person on the list – Gustav Magnar Witzoe, 22 – is also Norwegian.
"Their fortune is all inherited, but it is remarkable that the three youngest billionaires on the list are all Norwegian," said Kerry Dolan, assistant managing editor at Forbes.
She said that in Scandinavian culture, fortunes were often handed over to the younger generation earlier than in other countries, as a way of engaging the young in the family business. There were also, she suspected, tax reasons for the transfer of cash.
Miss Andresen is a scion of a family which made its fortune through tobacco. In 1849 her great, great, great grandfather founded what was to become Norway's leading cigarette producer.
In 2005, however, the family sold the company for ethical reasons, netting $500m.
Her elders invested the money wisely, seeking out opportunities in property, private equity and hedge funds, said Ms Dolan. Her father, Johan H Andresen, in 2007 transferred over 80 per cent of his shares in his investment company Ferd Holding over to his daughters.
On their return though, they studied at their local Oslo state school and their father still insists that they buy all their cars second-hand.
“I actually save all the time, I have always done,” said Alexandra in an interview last year with the Ferd’s corporate magazine.
“I save when I get my weekly allowance, and I save the cash prizes I win in competitions or if I get money as a gift for my birthday. It means I can buy myself things I really want, like a bag or a pair of shoes, without having to ask mum or dad for money.”
But the sisters live deliberately low-key lives.
"There are both pros and cons of being in the family I have," said Katharina. "There is a lot of pressure and awkward questions. Our name is so associated with money that is always the subject of questions."
She told how, during a lunch break at her primary school in Majorstuen, a wealthy Oslo suburb, her school mates looked over and saw she had 15,000 kroner (£1,200) in her account.
"When the boys saw that they were shocked,” she said. “It has been important for me when I get to know new people, so that they see me and not the money. I have to see how the person is before I let them get close to me.”
Alexandra, whose boyfriend is a Norwegian professional mixed martial arts fighter, lives in Germany, where she competes at international level dressage competitions – winning medals in the European Young Riders’ championships in 2013 and 14.
Katharina lives in Oslo, where she works at the family firm – a company founded in 1849 her great, great, great grandfather. The business went on to become Norway’s leading cigarette producer, before the tobacco interests were sold in 2005 and the company evolved into property, banking and investments.
"I could choose not to work, not to do some things, but I will take part in the community and look forward to it,” said Katharina.
"It's not always easy to know how to live up to expectations.”
Mr Andresen said in an interview with Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten last year that he was not insisting that either of his daughters become involved in running Ferd, the family business.
"It was expected of me - and I had the ambition - to become chief executive," he said. "It is not certain my children do. I'll give them the opportunity to choose as people, and not as pre-programmed robots.”
He has control of the company on to his daughters, making them billionaires – but insisted that they drive second-hand cars.
"I bought it second hand," said Katharina of the Audi she bought to replace her grandmother's old Golf.
"Dad has a rule that we can buy a nice car, but it must be second hand."
In an interview with Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper last year, Mr Andresen said that he was not insisting on either of his daughters become actively involved in the family business.
“It was expected of me - and I had the ambition - to become chief executive,” he said. “It is not certain that my children do. I’ll give them the opportunity to choose as people and not as pre-programmed robots. I do not want to leave a void at management level that must be filled by my girls.”
At present, Katharina, who has been involved in some of the family’s philanthropic ventures and is now studying social sciences at Amsterdam University College, seems the most likely to take an interest.
Alexandra Andresen has achieved international acclaim with her equestrianism, a passion she inherited from her mother Kristin at just three years old, riding tiny Shetland ponies in Oslo’s Kongsgarden park.
She won bronze at the 2013 European Junior Riders Championships in Compiegne, France, and silver at the 2014 European Junior Riders Championships in Arezzo, Italy on her stallion Belamour.
Since September she has been based in Germany, where she is sponsored by Kingsland for her dressage competitions.
"This is what I want to do for the rest of my life – ride!" she told Eurodressage magazine.
Her boyfriend, Joachim Tollefsen, 24, is a professional mixed martial arts fighter, also from Norway.