Iceland v Iceland: We tried to cool row 10 years ago, says ex-High St kingpin

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Iceland Foods attempted to settle its trademark dispute with its namesake country a decade ago, the Icelandic tycoon who once chaired the chain has claimed. 

Former High Street kingpin Jon Asgeir Johannesson — whose investment vehicle lost control of the frozen-food supermarket chain in 2009 — told the Standard he was given the cold shoulder in attempts to settle the matter.

“We offered to make a very fair agreement in 2006 with the Icelandic government when we were the owners… they never responded,” he added. 

Icelandic authorities have launched legal action against the retailer, which has the trademark for the name Iceland in Europe. The country claims it prevents firms from describing their products as Icelandic.

After sending a delegation to Reykjavik to meet the foreign affairs minister, founder Malcolm Walker claimed that authorities have “no interest” in a compromise. Walker, who was pictured this week slaying a Viking at a company party, was not on  the trip. 

However, Johannesson  said: “I think it’s easy to find a solution. The right people need to sit down to do so.”  

His Baugur venture expanded rapidly in the early 2000s — buying up stakes in Iceland, House of Fraser, Debenhams, Hamleys, Karen Millen and French Connection.

However, the collapse of Iceland’s banks in 2008 caused his empire to crumble and he was accused of siphoning off a $2 billion (£1.6 billion) loan from Icelandic bank Glitnir.

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December 8, 2016 |
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