Norsk Hydro ASA
Norsk Hydro, with over $13 billion in revenues and over 39,000 employees, hold's plenty of sway in Norway. Though it's the country's largest publicly traded company there's a big catch: the Norwegian government owns 44%. What does that mean? Well, it means if the company's management were to screw up big time it's a safe bet the government will step in and bail it out. Many companies in France have this cushion.
Founded in 1905, Norsk Hydro is one of the world's biggest fertilizer manufacturers as well as one of the world's largest producers of aluminum and magnesium. Throw in its extensive interests in the exploration, production, refining and marketing of oil and gas and you've got yourself an 800-pound gorilla.
Being the heavyweight in Norway probably explains why my return visit doesn't fare much better than the first. The reception four years ago was lackluster at best and I could sense a certain amount of arrogance and bureaucracy in the air. The tour of the place consisted of walking to my contact person's office.
Located a half mile
from Oslo's city center, the 14-story head office tower is just
plain ugly. Built in the 1960's, the brown pebble exterior on
the concrete clad structure gives the effect of the building
crumbling. It's even more noticeable because this is one of Oslo's
tonier neighborhoods with many embassies nearby.
I'm back again the
next day for my 3:30 PM rendezvous with Sohlberg. We meet in
her office and she mentions going to www.corporatetrivia.com
and looking up the story of my first visit. Sohlberg was surprised
to read there were cactus in the lobby four years ago. Hey, what
can I say I collect corporate trivia. Besides working for Hydro,
Sohlberg also teaches at the Norwegian School of Management.
Like last time, it
isn't possible to see the boardroom or CEO's office ("too
busy") and like the previous visit I ask if there's any
reason why the CEO's office is on the eighth floor instead of
the 14th. Sohlberg doesn't know if there're any special reasons.
A quick look at one of the guest dining rooms is the extent of