Shipping magnate Sigval Bergesen the Younger established The Bergesen Foundation by deed of gift on 12th November 1975. Since then, the Foundation has supported a wide range of publicly beneficial causes.
When The Bergesen Foundation was first established in 1975, it was known as «Sigval Bergesen d.y. og hustru Nanki's Almennyttige Stiftelse» (the public benefit foundation of Sigvald Bergesen the Younger and his wife Nanki).
The Foundation’s Articles of Association state: «The Foundation is a non-profit organisation and should not undertake commercial activities. Its objective is to support public benefit projects that are not publicly funded. It shall give particular consideration to projects within the fields of culture and humanitarian work.» The Articles of Association further state that the Foundation should «seek to promote the acquisition of specialized knowledge that benefits the general public.»
The initial capital of the Foundation was «4 million Norwegian kroner as fixed initial capital» and «1000 shares in AS Sig. Bergesen d.y. & Co», the controlling company in the Bergesen d.y. Group, a shipping business based in Oslo. In 1986, when all the companies in the business were merged under one holding company and listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange, the Foundation sold its shares in the company and increased the capital assets at its disposal considerably. Today, the Foundation stewards a little over one billion Norwegian NOK.
Cultural and Humanitarian Work
Throughout its history, the Foundation has awarded grants to a wide range of public benefit projects. The common denominator has been, and remains, a requirement to benefit the population at large. The category “Cultural Work” has throughout the life of the Foundation included the performing and creative arts, and cultural activities aimed at every age group in the general population. The Foundation has supported a variety of activities including exhibitions, creative arts, festivals, ensembles and orchestras, and awarded grants to institutions such as museums and independent performing arts companies, as well as individuals. During recent years the cultural category has also included support for documentary making and non-fiction writing, often covering humanitarian themes.
The category “Humanitarian Work” has throughout the life of the Foundation included financial support for a number of activities connected with addiction treatment; care of the elderly; free legal aid; youth work; crime prevention; offender rehabilitation; help for vulnerable groups; outdoor activities; medical equipment and patient-centred medical research.
The executive body of The Bergesen Foundation is the Board of Trustees. Two branches of the founder’s family are represented on the Board, as well as two representatives elected from relevant specialist areas. The Board appoints an external chairperson. The Board has been chaired by Helge R. Myhre (1977-1981), Frithjof Sverre (1982-1983), Gunnar Thommessen (1983-2001) and Jon R. Gundersen (2001-2007). Jan Fredrik Wilhelmsen took over from October 2007 to June 2020, followed by Per Conradi Andersen in June 2020.
Jan Tormundsen acted as business manager for the foundation between 1977 and 2012. Due to an increase in applications and a desire for additional representation and follow-up in the target sectors, in 2012 the Board decided to appoint Ole Jacob Bull first as project leader, and later as general manager. In 2019 Karianne Bjellås Gilje succeeded him as CEO of The Bergesen Foundation. As applications continued to rise, and plans for the Bergesen Prize, web site improvements, social media etc. took shape, the Board decided to appoint an application co-ordinator and web site project leader. Annika Hagstrøm took on these roles in April 2020.
The Bergesen Foundation achieved Eco-Lighthouse certification in August 2020
In August 2020 The Bergesen Foundation, as the first grant-issuing public benefit foundation in Norway, received Eco-Lighthouse certification. Eco-Lighthouse is Norway's most widely used certification scheme for enterprises seeking to document their environmental efforts and demonstrate social responsibility. The Foundation’s Board and Administration strive to ensure that internal operations, awards, and the stewardship of the Foundation's capital assets have concrete sustainability targets and a positive impact in terms of climate and the environment.
About the Founder
Sigval Bergesen the Younger was born in Stavanger on 27th April 1893. His family background was in shipping and commerce, and after completing his business education in Germany, England and France he started to work in his father's shipping company in 1916. In 1935 he founded his own shipping company, and in due course moved it to Oslo. In the years up to his retirement in 1976, he built the company into become the largest shipping company in Norway, and one of the largest and most financially sound tanker companies in the world. Following his retirement his two grandsons, cousins Petter G. Sundt and Morten Sigval Bergesen, took on the leadership of the company.
A large part of Sigval Bergesen the Younger’s professional legacy is centred around the development of modern tanker shipping. The shipping company had a varied fleet of tankers known as “The Green Tankers”. This name came from the characteristic green colour of the topsides, which, combined with the burgundy paint on the hull below the waterline and design features in white, dark blue and grey, are colours we have now resurrected as the main colours of the Foundation's visual profile.
Sigval Bergesen the Younger made Norway competitive within the tanker transport sector. He also played an important part in the modernization of the Rosenberg Mekaniske Verksted shipyard in Stavanger. Following his acquisition of the shares previously held by the central bank of Norway, he gradually expanded the capacity, until the shipyard had the capacity to build ships with a tonnage of over 160.000. Rosenberg also stimulated significant economic growth in the town and surrounding district.
Full speed ahead! Sigval Bergesen the Younger
Sigval Bergesen the Younger had a strong belief in individual effort, and that it is individuals who move society forward. His motto was “Full speed ahead!” Even before he established the public benefit foundation, he donated significant sums to medical research and a variety of humanitarian and cultural causes. At the end of the 1960s he started work on a public benefit foundation reflecting his charitable interests. His intention was to give something back to Norwegian society in exchange for the safe environment and many opportunities he had benefited from. He wanted to create something that would continue to fulfil this purpose in the future, without being reliant on the success of the business.
On the 12th of November 1975 he established by deed of gift the "Sigval Bergesen d.y. og hustru Nanki's Almennyttige Stiftelse" (the public benefit foundation of Sigvald Bergesen the Younger and his wife Nanki) – what is today known as The Bergesen Foundation. The Foundation was to be owned by its purpose and run in perpetuity. Sigval Bergesen the Younger died 7th May 1980. The Foundation continues to be managed according to the wishes of the founder and according to the purpose that is stated in the statutes outlined in the deed of gift.