Debt Burden of the Fallen Viking Hero; Knives Are out for an Internet Star as His Glamorous Tale of Success Turns into a Norse Saga

By Fluendy, Simon | The Mail on Sunday (London, England), September 2, 2001 | Go to article overview

Debt Burden of the Fallen Viking Hero; Knives Are out for an Internet Star as His Glamorous Tale of Success Turns into a Norse Saga


Fluendy, Simon, The Mail on Sunday (London, England)


Byline: SIMON FLUENDY

HE was the most plausible of entrepreneurs. He recruited Ron Sandler - whose time as chief executive of the Lloyd's insurance market had established his reputation as a City big-hitter - to give gravitas to his operation.

He fraternised with John Porter, son of Tesco heiress Lady Shirley Porter - a man who had made a fortune from Demon, Britain's first internet provider.

He didn't argue with the widely publicised suggestion that he was Norway's richest man.

Christen Ager-Hansen was the classic charismatic highflier who was going places.

He had two Ferraris, he travelled by private jet and his business was apparently booming.

That was less than a year ago. Now Ager-Hansen, 39, is being pursued by creditors. The promised flotation of his internet investment company, Cognition, has been ditched. And staff of the British offshoot of the business have asked accountancy firm Robson Rhodes to help them secure wages unpaid for months.

Last year, Scandinavia gave the world its first high-profile tale of internet boom and bust when Boo.com, headed by the elegant Swedes Kajsa Leander and Ernst Malmsten, went into liquidation.

In 2001, Ager-Hansen is showing that Norway can also lay on a saga in cyberspace. He emerged on the business scene in his native Norway in 1988, promoting Cognition as an internet investment business.

He set it up to invest in 'new economy' firms after brokering a series of deals involving high-tech companies with Swedish government pension funds.

Supporters feted him and Ager-Hansen announced he would float his company and raise billions. Everything he did won media attention. He vowed to water-ski from Norway to Denmark. He promised millions of pounds to the tiny village of Lillesand in southern Norway, where he bought a huge holiday home.

Then came the move to Britain.

Ager-Hansen bought a penthouse in Kensington, west London, and set about gaining a listing for Cognition on the London Stock Exchange.

He needed a respected figurehead, so to chair Cognition he approached Ron Sandler, formerly of Lloyd's, who had a brief but lucrative stint with NatWest while it tried in vain to fight off Royal Bank of Scotland's [pound]21 billion bid.

And on the circuit of internet glitterati epitomising fashionable London at the turn of the Millennium, Ager-Hansen also teamed up with John Porter of the Tesco dynasty. …

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