Reiten, Eivind 1953–
President and chief executive officer, Norsk Hydro
Born: April 2, 1953, in Midsund, Møre og Romsdal, Norway.
Education: University of Oslo, 1978, Master of Science in economics.
Family: Married Frøydis Odden; children: two.
Career: Ministry of Fisheries, 1979–1982, junior executive officer; Centre Party Parliamentary Group, 1982–1983, secretary; Ministry of Fisheries, 1985–1986, minister of fisheries; Norsk Hydro, 1986–1988, manager and vice president, Hydro Agri; 1988–1990, president of Energy Division; Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, 1989–1990, minister of petroleum and energy; Norsk Hydro, 1991–1992, senior vice president, special projects; 1992–1996, president of Refining & Marketing Division; 1996–1998, president of Hydro Aluminium Metal Products; 1999–2001, executive vice president, light metals; 2001–, president and chief executive officer.
Awards: Named Leader of the Year by Økonomisk Rapport, 2003.
Address: Norsk Hydro ASA, Drammensveien 264, N-0240 Oslo, Norway; http://www.hydro.com/en.
■ On May 2, 2001, Eivind Kristofer Reiten became president and CEO of Norsk Hydro, an industrial conglomerate with two major segments: light metals (aluminium) and energy operations. At the time of Reiten's takeover, Norsk Hydro was Norway's largest publicly traded industrial company and was 43.8 percent owned by the Norwegian government. A third segment, Norsk Agri, was spun off in 2004.
Reiten came from the rural north of Norway, where his family was long established in farming and fishing. He originally intended to be an economist and graduated from Oslo University in 1978 with an economics degree. However, he spent his earliest working years as a politician with the Centre Party. In fact, he served for over a year as Norway's minister of fisheries, perhaps a fitting post for the son of a fisherman. However, in 1989 he took a position in the semipublic company Norsk Hydro and (with the exception of a term as Norway's minister of petroleum and energy) remained with this company.
Starting in 1989 Reiten held positions of increasing responsibility with Norsk Hydro. In 1999 he was appointed executive vice president and a member of corporate management, serving under the CEO and president, Egil Myklebust. To the surprise of the board, Myklebust announced his intention to step down from his position, and a committee began the search for a successor. In December 2000 their choice was announced: Eivind Reiten, who had worked in all three segments of Norsk Hydro, who had twice been a government minister, and who had extensive experience from various directorships in other companies. The formal change of command was scheduled for May 2, 2001.
When Reiten took over, he had already been a part of the corporate management team that had developed the strategy for Norsk Hydro's future, and he planned no sudden change of direction. However, change did come. The oil and energy segment was revitalized with the acquisition of VAW (a German aluminum group); the combination created the world's largest integrated aluminum company. On the other hand, Norsk Hydro divested itself of its fertilizer division since it was not seen as part of the company's core business. Norsk Hydro's stock market listings were streamlined. The result of this finetuning was that the company boosted its reputation among investment companies and bankers. Norsk Hydro entered into merger talks with its rival Statoil; however, the talks were terminated, and Reiten's name was one of those mentioned as a possible successor to Olav Fjellof Statoil. Reiten chose to remain with Norsk Hydro.
His tenure was not without controversy. He separated himself from his colleagues in the Centre Party who were strongly anti–European Union (EU). An article in Aftenposten (December 29, 2003) quotes him as saying, "I hesitate to declare myself an active 'Yes to the EU' person [but] it's becoming more and more difficult" to stay out of the Union. A salary increase of NK 550,000 (plus a bonus of NK 630,000) angered Norwegians, who saw the increase as obscene and destructive. Moreover, his unapologetic association with the oil and gas industry earned him the scorn of many in the environmental community.
It was Reiten's stated policy to keep a low profile, and he was not frequently discussed in the national papers for non-business matters. He was convinced that globalization is inevitable, and he supported openness, dialogue, liberalization of trade, and sustainable development. Reiten was quoted in FDI magazine as saying, "We believe attractiveness is linked to predictability through an established legal framework, a fair tax system and a highly qualified labor force."
See also entry on Norsk Hydro ASA in International Directory of Company Histories.
sources for further information
Andreassen, Kolbjørn, "Årets leder: Eivind Reiten," Økonomisk Rapport, February 5, 2004.
Fosse Skeie, Synnøve, "Generaldirectøren," Fædrelandsvennen, June 16, 2004.
Hohler, Alice, "Norsk Hydro Gets Its Act Together," Financial News, March 7, 2004.
"Hydro Agri Faces a New Future," Fertilizer International, September-October 2003, pp. 14–15.
"Hydro Boss Warms Up to EU," Aftenposten, December 29, 2003.
"An Interview with Eivind Reiten," FDI, April 2, 2003, http://www.fdimagazine.com/news/fullstory.php/aid/219/cautious_optimism.html, (then choose Norway).
"Reduced and Improved State Ownership" (a white paper presented to the Norwegian parliament on April 19, 2002), http://odin.dep.no/nhd/engelsk/akruelt/p.10001607/024131-070005/dok-bn.html.