News / January 17 2024

The Visionary Businessman with the Big Heart

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Per Grieg Senior achieved a lot during a long and fulfilling life. He was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, a philanthropist, an industrial visionary, a colleague, a boss, a friend, a Bergen patriot, and a cultural enthusiast.  

– Things are going incredibly well. It’s almost impossible to be this fortunate, Per Grieg Sr. said on his 90th birthday. Before celebrating the big day, he could announce that he had had his twelfth great-grandchild, and that everyone in the family were healthy and happy.

Per Grieg Sr. was born in Bergen 31 January 1932. He spent his childhood years in the family home in Ulriksdal, drawn by his father, the archictect Per Geelmuyden Grieg.

Per Grieg when turning 80 years.

Became Close Friends

Per Sr. studied civil engineering at the Norwegian Institute of Technology in Trondheim and completed his degree in mechanical engineering and naval architecture in 1956. After his studies, he worked for a few years as a ship designer at the Bergen Steamship Company and at Erikbergsvarvet in Gothenburg. In 1960, he started working in the family company Joachim Grieg & Co, founded by his grandfather’s brother in 1884.

Many of Per S.’s colleagues and business partners also became his close friends. At the office in Grieg Gaarden in C. Sundts gate, he had a framed black-and-white photo of his colleague and friend Per Waaler. In the 1960s, he was central in establishing the shipping company Star Shipping together with Per Sr. The two were called twins due to their close collaboration. Star Shipping invested in new technology and shipping concepts adapted to freight of paper rolls and cellulose. The shipping company became world leading in its segment.

The close collaboration between the two ended abruptly when Waaler died in an aeroplane accident in 1972. His uncle Hallvard «Halla» Grieg who had offered him the job in the family company, died the same year. Per Sr. became co-owner and head of the company. This became the beginning of the Grieg Group, a global actor in shipping, aquaculture, logistics and investing. Today, the company has offices in eight countries and over 1,600 employees.

Per Grieg nicely dressed next to the shipping industry's innovation, a sailboat.
Per Grieg senior when joining Grieg in 1960.

«To the Boss of the Boss, from the Boss»

«We are here for the employees, not the other way around.» For Per Sr. this meant seeing people, giving them responsibilities and allowing them to grow within their roles. His colleagues became his extended family.

This might explain why many work in the Grieg Group throughout their careers. Per Sr. often highlighted that he did not have employees, only colleagues, no matter what role they had in the companies.

A few years ago, when Per Sr. was 84 years young, the biggest newspaper in Western Norway visited the office for an interview. During their visit, they met his secretary Åse Karin Pettersen who was 73 at the time. She was in charge of everything (big and small) in the busy businessman´s life for 56 years.

For Christmas one year Per Sr. gave her a pair of silver earrings, she told the paper. The gift came with the following note: «To the boss of the boss, from the boss». The sentiment was spot on, and the note was well-earned.

Åse was much more than just a secretary for Per Sr. She was first and foremost a close colleague and his right hand in running the Grieg Foundation. Together, they ran the family foundation from its establishment in 2002 until 2020. The foundation owns 25% of the Grieg Group and has until now contributed over one billion Norwegian Kroner to children and youth, education, music, art and culture, the climate and medical research.

Per Grieg Senior, Elna Grieg and Åse Katrin Pettersen.

The cultural city of Bergen

Per Sr. was very passionate and enthusiastic. His cultural engagement and generosity has had a tremendous impact on the city of Bergen. “Money should nurture culture, strengthen creativity, and secure lives,” he said. He was instrumental in the construction of Grieghallen, the major concert hall in Bergen. Without his reconciling personality, negotiating skills, efforts, and financial contributions, Grieghallen would never have been built.

The financial support from Grieg Foundation to the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra became a turning point for the orchestra. It made it possible for the orchestra to go on international concert tours and to record a total of 100 recordings of new and classic pieces. The recordings were well-received by audiences worldwide and put Bergen on the international music map. All of this would not have been possible without the active engagement of Per Sr.

Per sr´s contributions and engagement nurtured a professional opera culture in Bergen, both through Opera Bergen and Bergen National Opera. Without his financial support, the city’s opera adventure would have been over long ago.

Money should nurture culture, strengthen creativity, and secure lives. Per Grieg sr.

Love at First Sight

Elna stood at one end of the wide staircase of Bergen Cathedral School. Per stood at the other. Both were 16 years old. It was love at first sight. They married in 1954 and had a long and happy life together until Elna passed away in 2020.

Per Sr. could dedicate himself to the business and to building the Grieg Group, because Elna took care of their family and everything at home. Even if Elna was not actively involved in the business, she meant a lot through the values she represented. – Don’t you dare become enemies, she told her children when the they took over the leadership of the Grieg Group in 1999. That is a promise they have kept. Camilla, Per Jr., Elna-Kathrine and Elisabeth Grieg are all active in the day-to-day operations of the Grieg Group.

Their house in Ulriksdal, where Per Sr. and Elna lived, was never very luxurious. But visitors could not avoid noticing the unique art on their walls. In addition to family photos, some of the most beautiful paintings from the golden age of Norwegian art history decorated their family home. The Grieg Art Collection consists of over 900 pieces, many exhibited in Oseana, the Culture House and centre in Os, outside of Bergen. Oseana became a reality after a generous financial gift from the Grieg Foundation.

Elna Grieg and Per Grieg senior.

«An Engine in the Stomach»

The creative force has always been an integral part of the Grieg family, whether they were architects, entrepreneurs or business leaders. What is it that has boosted them ever since Sea Captain Joachim Grieg arrived in Bergen and received his ship broker license in January 1884?

According to Senior, it was an innate drive and ability to see opportunities.

The expression «an engine in the stomach» originally stems from his uncle. For Per Sr., the drive was about making things happen, a motivation and an inner restlessness.

We are here for the employees, not the other way around. Per Grieg sr.

Making a Difference

Giving to others is about something greater than oneself, Per Sr believed. It is about making a difference and creating positive changes in people’s lives and in society.

Per Sr. was an early supporter and board member of SOS Children’s Villages. Support for children, youth, and education has been, and still is, a primary focus for the Grieg Foundation. Per Sr. firmly believed in people’s ability and inherent power to lift themselves out of poverty through education.

Per Sr. hoped the foundation would continue to support and build a better world, and that it would grow. He also wished that the driving force of the foundation would be rooted in a genuine desire to make a difference on all levels.

That hope and wish is fulfilled. His daughter Elna-Kathrine has taken over as Chair of the Board, and the foundation is donating more money than ever.

For his invaluable generosity and efforts in Bergen’s cultural life over several decades and his philanthropic work, Per Sr was appointed Knight of the Order of St. Olav in 2001. A well-deserved honour for a man who gave so much of himself to the city he loved. He was a leading example of how that culture and business can go hand in hand, to the benefit of an entire city.

Per Grieg senior when meeting Edward Gardner, Chief Conductor of Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.

Everything That Was Good in Life

Strønen was more than just a name of their family holiday estate in Os- Strønen represented and brought with it everything that was good in life. His grandfather bought the property in 1918, and his father designed the summer house «Haugen».

At Strønen, Per Sr, Elna, their children and grandchildren have spent a lot of time together. Per Sr spent months there every spring and summer. He loved life at sea and would take the boat out as often as he could.

To him, life was about taking care of moments and being present right then and there. At Strønen, the summers drifted happily by. As a child, he learned to swim and to sail. His attachment to Strønen is visible in Grieg Gaarden. From the ceiling of the building atrium hangs the mast of the sailing boat Oselvar.

Per Sr. biked from his home in Ulriksdal to the office until the very end. The office had the most magnificent view over Vågen and his beloved city. Per Sr loved his job. He was committed to the Grieg Group and Grieg Foundation until the end. Always curious. Always engaged.

Per Sr.´s vision about people being the most valuable resource lives on within the Grieg Group. Now, it rests upon the next generations to carry on his legacy of making a difference and creating value for the years to come.

Our thoughts go out to his closest family as we cherish the memories of a remarkable person. May he rest in peace.

—————

Colleagues and friends in the Grieg Group and Grieg Foundation.

Per Grieg Senior, photographed by Hans Jørgen Brun.

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