Björgólfur Gudmundsson is not only a bank chief in hot water,as The Telegraph describes him today: with his bankruptcy an era in Icelandic media history comes to an end.
Now that both Jon Asgeir Johannessen's investment vehicle Baugur and Björgólfur, also the former owner of West Ham FC, have been declared bankrupt, Iceland's media moguls are officially dead. Between them they used to control most of the tiny island's media, including leading newspapers such as Fréttablaðið, Morgunbladid and DV.
"You know, the sugar daddy behind DV and Fréttablaðið was Baugur, but the sugar daddy behind Morgunbladid was Björgólfur Guðmundsson? Every media here has its problem. We had Jon Asgeir, they have Björgólfur," said Reynir Traustason, Editor-in-chief of DV, when I interviewed him during my reporting trip to Iceland in December last year.
"Our sugar daddies are all dead", he asserted, describing Icelandic media as "alcoholics on detox" (my feature on Ragnarok for Icelandic media ran as the lead story in Journalisten's December issue, and my story on the role online media played in the "fleece revolution for Journalism.co.uk can be found here). I also chronicled the Icelandic newspaper saga for IFRA Magazine last year, as the story is quite amazing.
When I interviewed Metro International's CEO Per Mikael Jensen about the company's Q2 results recently, I solicited questions on Twitter, and when I asked him if there ia a future for free newspapers in the economic downturn, given advertising is in decline - a question submitted by fellow freelance journalist Gwladys Fouché - he said those freesheet closures people referred to "that's those Icelandic guys". A bit rich given how Metro shocked the market by closing its entire Spanish operation in January, but you got to love how he phrased it:
"Remember the crazy guys from Iceland? There was a time there where all of them wanted to buy a football team or a newspaper," he said and remarked how Metro at least closed down Spain in a mature way (more on that here).
I'm reminded of these sculptures along the road to Keflavik Airport, some of which seemed to be close to falling down, but I have no idea what they actually represent (snapped from behind the bus window)