People in Space: Anders Holch Povlsen

31st Aug 2021
People in Space: Anders Holch Povlsen

Anders Holch Povlsen is a 49-year-old Danish billionaire, owner of the Danish fashion retailer Bestseller, with a large network of businesses mostly in the fashion industry including the well-known ASOS. He is also an investor and the largest landowner in Scotland and owns estates adjoining the Melness Estate, where the controversial Sutherland Spaceport is planned to be built. He is the wealthiest man in Scotland with a fortune of over 12 billion dollars and 28th in the overall standings of the UK moneybags.

Until 2020, Povlsen had nothing to do with the space industry, but today we can confidently say that it is within the scope of his interests in Scotland. Let’s discuss this and other facts from the Danish billionaire’s biography.

Anders Holch Povlsen’s education and career

Anders Povlsen was born in 1972 in the Faroe Islands to Troels Holch Povlsen and Merete Bech Povlsen. Three years later, the family moved to Denmark, to the town of Brande, where they opened a women’s clothing store. Over time, the business grew into a small retail chain called Bestseller.

Parents wanted their son to continue the family business, so Anders Holch Povlsen received a good economic education. He first graduated from a business college in Denmark, then received a combined bachelor’s degree from Cambridge and a diploma from the Berlin University of Economics and Law. At the age of 28, Anders took over the management of Bestseller. Eventually, he managed to turn the company into one of the largest fashion conglomerates in Europe, with a turnover of about 3.2 billion euros.

Bestseller brought together 17 brands, including Vero Moda, Only, and Jack & Jones, with stores in 45 countries around the world, including 5,000 stores in China.

Besides, Povlsen has successfully invested in European online retail. He bought stakes in German online fashion retailer Zalando, its British counterpart Asos, Danish furniture label Hay, online supermarket Nemlig, and payment system Klarna.

Today, Anders Povlsen is ranked 169th by Forbes, with a fortune of $12 billion. And the Danes call him their Jeff Bezos.

Forever in love with Scotland

Anders Povlsen’s first exposure to Scotland was in the 1980s when he and his parents went fishing in the Scottish Highlands. The young man was so fascinated by Scotland’s harsh beauty that, as he later admitted, he fell in love with the country forever. Twenty years later, he returned to Scotland, but this time, with a chequebook instead of a fishing rod.

Since 2006, Anders Povlsen has been actively buying land on Scottish estates claiming his intention to return these lands to their former wild state. He founded Wildland Limited, which manages a number of hotel complexes in the Highlands, and directs all proceeds to the preservation of local nature and restoration of valuable landscapes. The company has already planted over 4 million trees to “restore Highlands to their former natural state and repair human damage.”

It was this passionate desire to protect Scotland’s nature that made the billionaire turn his gaze to the Scottish space sector and eventually became the cause of litigation and public outrage.

Anders Holch Povlsen vs. Sutherland Spaceport

In 2020, Wildland Limited filed a lawsuit to stop the construction of the Sutherland Space Centre in Highland, where Povlsen owns 220,000 acres of land on 12 estates, including Strathmore, Ben Loyal and Ben Hope in Sutherland.

The company that manages Povlsen’s Scottish property portfolio, Wildland Ltd., also handles bookings for people interested in staying in any of the impressive properties on Anders Povlsen’s estates. They are also very interested in restoring the Scottish landscape to its original natural state prior to the destruction of huge swathes of natural forest etc. to accommodate grazing sheep.

Povlsen launched a legal challenge to the granted planning permission through the Scottish Courts but was unsuccessful in doing so. The lawsuit stemmed from Povlsen’s alleged concerns about the potentially harmful effects of Space Hub Sutherland’s launches on the local residents’ health and the region’s environment, including the Caithness and Sutherland Peatland Special Protection Area. After a detailed consideration of the case, the Court dismissed the claim, but the company soon filed a motion for review of the judgment.

He caused further controversy by investing in a competing launch site in the Shetland Isles, which was cited in a government report as being preferred and recommended location for a Scottish launch pad. Povlsen’s company, Wildland Ventures, had invested £1.4m in a rival Space Centre project (now SaxaVord Spaceport). Wildland Ventures explained this strange decision by their willingness to support the space industry, which, if developed correctly, can greatly benefit Scotland’s rural economy. However, the company stressed that the site for the development should be chosen wisely.

Povlsen’s support of the Shetland Space Center amid a lawsuit against the opening of Space Hub Sutherland caused an uproar among the Scottish public.

Highland City Council member Hugh Morrison, representing Sutherland North, West and Central, said: “This is really disappointing. He (Povlsen) obviously doesn’t want the spaceport on his own doorstep but would be happy to fund it on someone else’s.”

Dorothy Pritchard, chairman of the Melness Crofters’ Estate (MCE), where the Sutherland launch site is to be located, took to social media with a statement: “It is blatant hypocrisy on the part of a company owned by Mr Povlsen to sue the Sutherland Space Hub, which will be carbon neutral while investing in the Shetland Islands, which has four conservation sites, two specially protected areas, one national natural reserve, Viking Age archaeology site, and a planned monument. What hypocrisy to call yourself an environmentalist.”

In the autumn of 2021, Anders Holch Povlsen gave in under pressure from Scotland’s society and said he would no longer appeal against the decision to build the Sutherland Space Hub.

As a reminder, Sutherland Space Hub should be the first and largest of the seven proposed spaceports in the UK under the Launch UK programme. The hub will serve 12 satellite launches per year, creating 61 jobs for local residents and 250 more across the region.

SaxaVord Spaceport is also well positioned to take its rightful place in the Scottish launch market, and we hope that Anders Povlsen will continue to support the site to ensure fair competition.

Anders Holch Povlsen’s family

Anders Holch Povlsen is married to Ann Storm Pedersen. They met in Bestseller when Ann started her career in the company’s sales department. Their marriage continues to this day. Ann is a co-owner of Bestseller and supports Anders in all his endeavours. From 1999 to 2014, they had four children.

Anders Holch Povlsen children’s names and dates of birth: Astrid (1999), Agnes (2000), Alma (2005), Alfred (2014).

Tragedy in Sri-Lanka

In April 2019, Anders Holch Povlsen and his wife suffered a terrible tragedy. Anders, Ann Holch Povlsen and their children spent the Easter weekend in one of the hotels in the city of Colombo, Sri Lanka. By a tragic coincidence, in those days, the country was shocked by a series of terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of about 300 people. Alma, Agnes and Alfred Povlsen were among these victims. They died from bombings at the hotel, and Anders himself was injured. Many people in Scotland expressed their sympathy and support to the Povlsen couple, which helped them recover from their tragic loss. Less than a year later, in March 2020, they had twin girls and, in September 2021, a son.

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