SalMar CEO Linda Aase, Salmon Evolution CEO Håkon André Berg resign

Published on
October 25, 2022
Former SalMar CEO Linda Aase and former Salmon Evolution CEO Håkon André Berg.

Linda Aase has stepped down as the CEO of SalMar, and Håkon André Berg has resigned as CEO of Salmon Evolution.

Aase, who was appointed to the position in March 2022, will be replaced by Frode Arntsen, 52, the company’s chief operating officer for sales and industry. He previously worked at Hitramat and at Lerøy Seafood in production and factory management.

Frøya Municipality, Norway-headquartered SalMar is facing numerous challenges as the Norwegian government has proposed elevating the tax on the country’s salmon farmers, and as the company’s planned takeover of NRS is taking longer than expected. SalMar has scheduled an extraordinary general meeting of shareholders for Thursday, 27 October, to seek approval for an extension to the deadline for its completion. Additionally, SalMar Chief Financial Officer Gunnar Nielsen resigned in September 2022 after six months on the job.

“SalMar is one of the leading and most efficient salmon producers in the world. The company has delivered a solid operational performance during Aase’s tenure as CEO,” SalMar Board Chair and former CEO Gustav Witzøe said. “I would like to express my personal gratitude to Aase for her effort as CEO. At the same time, I am pleased that we have found an experienced replacement. I am comfortable that Frode Arntsen will continue to safeguard and develop SalMar as a leading supplier of salmon.”

Witzøe said he was assured SalMar has a “highly skilled and competent operational management team.” And SalMar posted bigger harvests in Q3 2022 and increased earnings in Q2 2022,  with its earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) of NOK 1.048 billion (USD 108.9 million, EUR 108.2 million) and its gross profit reaching NOK 8.9 billion (USD 924.2 million, EUR 918.4 million), up from NOK 6.4 billion (USD 664.8 million, EUR 660.4 million) in the first half of 2021.

“I am highly motivated and ready to take on the task of leading one of the world's best aquaculture companies,” Arntsen said in a press release. “The task will be to ensure that the strong development in SalMar continues. We are a dedicated and passionate team with more than 1,900 competent employees who work every day to deliver healthy and sustainable seafood to the whole world, so I am looking forward to this.”

Separately, on 25 October, Salmon Evolution CEO Håkon André Berg resigned from his position as CEO, citing family issues. Berg joined the company in 2019 as chief financial officer and was promoted to CEO in June 2020. Salmon Evolution CFO Trond Håkon Schaug-Pettersen has been appointed interim CEO and the company’s board of directors said in a press release it plans to quickly begin the process of recruiting a permanent replacement.

Salmon Evolution is constructing a NOK 1.3 billion (USD 140 million, EUR 119 million) land-based salmon farm in an abandoned quarry at Indre Harøy on the west coast of Norway. The land-based aquaculture facility, which the company expects will be the largest in Europe, is using flow-through aquaculture, rather than a recirculating aquaculture system. In July 2020, Seoul, South Korea-based Dongwon Industries, South Korea's largest seafood company, provided NOK 50 million (USD 5.7 million, EUR 5.1 million) in investment in the project in exchange for a 9.7 percent stake in Salmon Evolution. In September 2020, they announced a plan to build a land-based salmon farm in Yangyang, Gangwon-do, South Korea through the K Smart Farming joint venture.

"It's been a real pleasure leading Salmon Evolution through this very exciting period of time, where we have gone from being a small start-up to a large company with about 60 employees and a global presence,” Berg said. “I firmly believe that the company is in a unique position and it has not been an easy decision to make. However, due to certain personal family matters, I have come to the conclusion that stepping down from my position as CEO is the best solution for both my family and the company."

Berg has been nominated for a role on the company’s board and Salmon Evolution will soon hold an extraordinary general meeting in order to record a vote on his appointment.

"The board of directors regrets that Håkon André Berg has asked for relief from his position as CEO. After joining the company in 2019, he has been instrumental in establishing Salmon Evolution as the global frontrunner within land-based salmon farming,” Salmon Evolution Chair Tore Tønseth said. “We do, however, appreciate that Håkon has accepted to join the company's board of directors subject to the general meeting's decision. At the same time the board of directors is pleased to have secured continuity with the appointing of Trond Håkon Schaug-Pettersen as interim CEO, whom together with the rest of the management team and the entire organization, ensures that the company is very well equipped to deliver on both our strategy as well as our upcoming milestones.”

Schaug-Pettersen said the company's production ramp-up is proceeding according to plan, with two batches of fish in its farm and harvesting of the first batch expected to take place in early November 2022.

"Salmon Evolution is an amazing company with highly skilled employees and a unique company culture,” he said. “We have some very exciting months ahead with our first harvest coming up shortly and where we will finally have our proof of concept demonstrated. On that basis, Salmon Evolution will have an unparalleled platform to expand our operations, both in Norway and abroad.”

Photos courtesy of SalMar/Salmon Evolution

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