OSLO (Reuters) - Norway's richest man has handed a chunk of his personal wealth, including his listed real estate holding company, to a charitable foundation, marking his exit from a self-built business empire.
Olav Thon, whose wealth is estimated at 27 billion crowns ($4.39 billion) by Kapital magazine, handed his 71.9 percent stake in Olav Thon Eiendomsselskap ASA to his newly created foundation, starting off the new entity with about $1.3 billion, based on the firm's market capitalization.
"The purpose of Olav Thon Foundation is to exert a stable and long-term ownership of Olav Thon Gruppen and its operations, along the main lines that Olav Thon has used for his business, and to distribute funds for charitable funds," the company said in a statement on Tuesday.
A self-made billionaire, Thon stated off as a farm boy, building his real estate empire from the early 1950s and amassing a group with close to 500 properties, including hotels, retail space and office buildings.
Although he turned 90 this year, Thon remains a highly visible public figure, taking an active role in elections this year supporting the populist Progress Party.
Thon, who is rarely seen without his red knitted cap, has also served as his company's chairman for the past 31 years and publicly backed Norway's high taxes, which hit the wealthy with high income and wealth taxes.
Only shipping tycoon John Fredriksen, known as Big Wolf, has amassed a bigger wealth in Norway but he gave up his citizenship years ago for Cypriot passport to escape high taxes.
Reporting by Balazs Koranyi Editing by Jeremy Gaunt