Telenor's Ex-CEO Ends Consulting, Gives Up Bonus Amid Probe

  • Telenor acquired about a third of Russia's VimpelCom in 1999
  • Norwegian government owns about 54% of Nordic carrier Telenor

Telenor ASA’s former Chief Executive Officer Jon Fredrik Baksaas agreed to end a consulting agreement with the board and give up his 2015 bonus after the Norwegian police joined other nations in probing alleged bribery at VimpelCom Ltd.

"Although it’s VimpelCom that’s under investigation, and Telenor is cooperating with the investigating authorities as a witness, questions have been raised about what information the Telenor Group had about the alleged corruption in VimpelCom,” interim Chairman Frank Dangeard said in a statement. Telenor bought 33 percent of VimpelCom in 1999 and announced last month it will seek to sell its stake.

Jon Fredrik Baksaas

Photographer: Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg

The Norwegian government, which owns 54 percent of Telenor, on Oct. 30 forced the company’s chairman, Svein Aaser, to step down after it had been revealed the company at hearings this year failed to disclose all it knew about dealings at VimpelCom. Baksaas retired in August after 13 years at the helm of Telenor.

Norwegian police last week detained VimpelCom’s former CEO Jo Lunder at the Oslo airport, joining investigators in four other countries in probing alleged bribes to win business in Uzbekistan. Dutch, Swedish, Swiss and U.S. authorities have spent years probing allegations connected to contracts in Uzbekistan.

VimpelCom has set aside $900 million to cover possible U.S. and Dutch fines. Also owned by billionaire Mikhail Fridman, VimpelCom faces questions into the role of Gulnara Karimova, daughter of the president of Uzbekistan, in the awarding of contracts. 

Norway’s parliament last week decided to hold a new hearing into how Telenor handled information relating to VimpelCom. The legislature’s Constitution and Control Committee held hearings with Baksaas and the chairman in January this year.

“The recent developments in the ongoing investigations of VimpelCom make my role as strategic advisor to the Board in Telenor challenging,” said Baksaas in the statement.

The former CEO will keep the shares awarded under the company’s long-term incentive program, Telenor said. In 2014, Baksaas was paid 1.7 million kroner in bonus ($197,000), 1.7 million kroner in a long-term incentive bonus and 1.6 million kroner in a long-term incentive grant. His salary last year was 5.5 million kroner.  

The bonus for this year had not been set yet, according to the company.

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