Laid the foundations for the future of Ferd

On 1 August 2017 John Giverholt (64) steps down as CEO of Ferd. Thanks to his efforts, Ferd has become a work place that attracts the best talent.

John Giverholt was the first person Johan H. Andresen was responsible for recruiting. This was in 2000. Johan H. Andresen was on the hunt for a CFO capable of helping to equip a family-owned company for the future.

“We came across John Giverholt through a head-hunter. He was by far the most suitable candidate”, comments Johan.

Johan was certain from an early stage that John Giverholt was the right man. However, John was not so convinced.

“It was not love at first sight”, comments Johan with a laugh.

John confirms the story: “I was very, very sceptical when the head-hunter contacted me with an inquiry from Tiedemanns. My first reaction was that I would never work for a family-owned company. At least not for Tiedemanns Tobaksfabrik”, explains Giverholt.

The pair had a number of conversations before John made up his mind. His aim had been to find two things out: was the company really set on change, not stuck in the past? And was Johan interested in other people’s opinions even if they differed from his?”

“I was convinced on both points after three meetings. It also became clear to me that Tiedemanns was a company with an enormous number of opportunities. The company was very strong financially, was committed to active ownership, and had a strong value platform. I saw that working there could be both enjoyable and exciting”, explains John.

“I have always appreciated two of Johan’s characteristics in particular: He is very open to new ideas, and he wants people to give their honest opinion – even though we have disagreed many times. This is probably why we work so well together”, adds John.

When Johan H. Andresen decided to step aside as CEO in 2012, his timing was not random.

“If John becoming CEO was to make sense, it had to happen then, as that gave him five years in the role, which was the minimum needed. Some other changes also needed to be made to the organisation, and promoting him made these possible. The signal I wanted to send was that potential and talent were very important to Ferd. I didn’t want career progression at Ferd to be a linear affair where people only progressed on the basis of how long they had been there”, explains Johan.

By stepping aside, Johan made it clear that Ferd had become a professionally led organisation throughout.

Johan handed the top role over to John on two conditions: He had to stay in the role until he was 65 and, when he stepped down, he had to join Ferd’s Advisory Board. John, who turns 65 on 20 July, said yes to both without hesitating.

“Now that I am joining Ferd’s Advisory Board, I have made it clear that I will be an advisor and a resource for Ferd’s management, not for Johan. Similarly, I don’t think it would be a good idea for a former CEO to join the board of directors, as you can easily end up in a role where what you are doing is defending the choices you made and so acting as a brake on change. But assisting Morten and his team will be great fun”, comments John.

Gammel Nok
John Giverholt is in no way planning on retiring, despite stepping down as CEO. In addition to the work he will be doing for the Advisory Board, he will continue as chair of the board at Elopak. He will also be joining Gammel Nok as chair, a company in which Ferd recently acquired a 20% stake.

“I told Johan and Katinka that I wanted to get involved with a social entrepreneur when I stepped down. Gammel Nok is an incredibly exciting company that has the potential to make a major contribution to society, while also having a commercially viable model”, comments John.

John also holds positions at a range of other companies, including Gjensidige, Aars and A. Wilhelmsen.

“I am very fortunate to have received lots of interesting proposals and have taken on a number of board appointments. I’m certainly going to be busy over the next few years”, he adds.

John prefers to look ahead, and does not often spend time thinking about the past. Reflecting on the past as a result of his impending change of role, he is especially satisfied to have been part of building an organisation that gives people the opportunity to develop their talents.

“Part of my work was to help identify and develop my successor. I am really pleased that we had a number of internal candidates and that we were able to recruit my successor internally. It is a mark of quality. It is also incredibly satisfying to see how Ferd attracts skilled candidates. We only attract the best when we recruit. I am glad I’m not applying to work at Ferd now”, comments John with a laugh.

The man who eventually managed to convince John Giverholt to join Ferd 17 years ago struggles to find the right words when asked about John’s significance to Ferd: “The word ‘invaluable’ is hard to avoid. In many ways, he has been my professional ally”, comments Johan H. Andresen”.

The entire article is available (in Norwegian) here.



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