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10.12.16

Danish Stories – Part V: Jesper Kongstad’s Chinchilla Fur Farming

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Danish fairy tales are no fairy tales but horror stories

Mink political influence

Summary: Bremelandsgård has turned from a villa into a chinchillas slaughtering operation, owing to Jesper Kongstad’s fur farming venture

ARTICLES AND ADDENDA in this series about the business ventures of Jesper Kongstad, Chairman of the Administrative Council of the EPO, have so far included the following ten posts (plus some new gem from last night):

These ten previous parts of the series have attracted some interest from local media and EPO insiders. An EPO insider, for example, posted the following tweet (with newly-added photos) when our series started.

Killing chinchillas

The chinchillas angle attracted the most attention because of the animal cruelty element of it. The sad thing is, the super-rich probably lack the empathy to even understand why it’s immoral. They grow animals not for food or for leisure but for skin, as “fur” can imply something like wool (shaving it off rather than skinning to death for no purpose other than rich people’s fashion, not even for food).

Today’s last installment (last unless new information turns up or becomes available) is probably the most important. This one deals with the chinchilla fur farming venture.

As reported in a February 2014 article in the Danish farmers’ journal LandsbrugsAvisen (more on that in an upcoming addendum), Majbritt and Jesper Kongstad decided to sell their villa in the affluent suburban neighborhood of Rungsted on the Zealand coast north of Copenhagen in 2012 and relocate to a farmhouse in Valby, a rural area in the Gribskov municipality which is situated about 80 km north-west of Copenhagen.

“The sad thing is, the super-rich probably lack the empathy to even understand why it’s immoral. They grow animals not for food or for leisure but for skin, as “fur” can imply something like wool (shaving it off rather than skinning to death for no purpose other than rich people’s fashion, not even for food).”The villa in Rungsted was called “Strandhøj” and was located at Højagervej 6, 2960 Rungsted. The name “Strandhøj” has been used by Kongstad for some of his companies, for example STRANDHØJ HOLDING ApS which now operates under the name FJORDBLINK MEDICAL ApS (CVR number 25942507).

According to publicly available data on Danish real estate Web sites, the Rungsted villa had a floor space of 172 square metres and was sold in March 2012 for a price of 6.95 million DKK (approx. 934k EUR). It seems that it was originally purchased by the Kongstad family in January 2004 for the price of 3.91 million DKK (approx. 525k EUR) so this indicates that there had been a healthy appreciation in property prices in the neighbourhood during the intervening years.

“The inspiration for Ms. Kongstad’s interest in fur farming was reportedly provided by a dinner table conversation with Torben Nielsen, who was at the time the CEO of Kopenhagen Fur.”The new farmstead of Bremelandsgård is located at Vibelandsvej 8, Valby, 3200 Helsinge and was apparently purchased in May 2012 for a price of 7.5 million DKK (approx. 1 million EUR). The house boasts an impressive 240 square metres of floor space and the property also includes around 22 hectares of agricultural land. Sources include but are not limited to this one.

As far as is known, the purchase of the Bremelandsgård property was financed mostly by credit (mortgage). At the same time it is unclear what exactly happened to the proceeds of the sale of the Rungsted villa. This has caused some people to speculate that at least some of the proceeds might have been used to cover operating losses in one or more of the various private businesses forming part of the Kongstad family business conglomerate, in particular the losses incurred by FJORDBLINK MEDICAL ApS (CVR number 25942507) during the preceding years.

The move to the farmhouse has given Kongstad’s wife, Majbritt, the possibility to reinvent herself as a chinchilla breeder and director of a fur farming operation which forms the subject of today’s article.

The inspiration for Ms. Kongstad’s interest in fur farming was reportedly provided by a dinner table conversation with Torben Nielsen, who was at the time the CEO of Kopenhagen Fur.

In October 2011 Ms. Kongstad proceeded to place a small ad in Dansk Pelsdyravl (“Danish Fur Farming “) a trade magazine published by the Danish Fur Breeders’ Association. We have managed to get a copy of it [PDF], based on or derived from the source. The text of the small ad read as follows:

Wanted

Mink farm in Zealand for purchase.

Possibly as smooth change in ownership over a number of years.

Contact me if you are considering sale or cooperation.

After some initial research, it appears that Ms. Kongstad came to the conclusion that a mink farming operation was an overly ambitious project and decided instead to opt for chinchillas.

The Kongstads’ chinchilla fur farming venture has received coverage in a number of Danish agricultural journals and has also been featured on local television (we showed some images from this programme earlier on in this series).

“The company “Bremelandsgård” is a sole proprietorship registered in the name of Jesper Kongstad.”There is also an Internet presence on Facebook which is maintained under the name of “Kongstad Chinchilla”.

Although Majbritt Kongstad appears as the public face of the venture, the business operation seems to be actually controlled by a company called “Bremelandsgård” (CVR number 34572445) which is named after the farmstead in Valby.

The company “Bremelandsgård” is a sole proprietorship registered in the name of Jesper Kongstad.

According to the CVR entry, its main activity is “breeding of fur animals, etc.” The official registration data also indicates that the company engages in secondary lines of activity described as “business and other management consultancy activities”. Because “Bremelandsgård” is operated as a sole proprietorship no accounts are available.

“For readers who are not familiar with Denmark, it should be noted that it is a — if not the — major hub of the global fur industry. Denmark is home to 1,500 mink farmers who together rear about 17.2 million minks per year – about one-fifth of the world’s supply.”The connection to Torben Nielsen, the former CEO of Kopenhagen Fur, who is said to have inspired this venture is interesting and may be worth looking at in closer detail.

For readers who are not familiar with Denmark, it should be noted that it is a — if not the — major hub of the global fur industry. Denmark is home to 1,500 mink farmers who together rear about 17.2 million minks per year – about one-fifth of the world’s supply.

Kopenhagen Fur, which is the largest fur skin auction company in the world, is owned and managed by the Dansk Pelsdyravlerforening, the Danish Fur Breeders’ Association. The sale of more than 40 per cent of the world’s mink skin production is conducted from here. According to an article entitled “Adventures in the skin trade – How the Danes became masters of the global fur business” published in the Economist, Kopenhagen Fur auctioned 21 million pelts in 2013 and had a turnover of €2.1 billion.

Here’s a quick glance at this article, complete with an apt caricature:

Danish fur

In May 2014 the Danish press reported that Kopenhagen Fur had made a “secret donation” of 70.000 DKK (approx. 9,400 Euro) to the Danish liberal party Venstre which did not appear in the party’s accounts.

“In May 2014 the Danish press reported that Kopenhagen Fur had made a “secret donation” of 70.000 DKK (approx. 9,400 Euro) to the Danish liberal party Venstre which did not appear in the party’s accounts.”Connections between the Danish fur industry and politics have also been explored in a recently published book entitled Skjulte penge (“Hidden money”) which was written by Chris Kjær Jessen and Carl Emil Arnfred, two investigative journalists from the leading Danish national daily newspaper Berlingske. The book Skjulte penge investigates “power, political parties and lobbying in Danish politics”. Amongst other things it examines the role of the fur industry and Kopenhagen Fur and the influence which it exerts in political circles.

Here is a picture of the book’s cover:

Skjulte penge

In an article entitled Kan minkavlere købe sig til politisk indflydelse? (“Can mink breeders buy political influence?”) published by Dagbladet Information in June 2016, the Danish journalist Morten Frisch referred to the book Skjulte penge and discussed some of the known links between Kopenhagen Fur and various Danish politicians including those from the Venstre party with which Kongstad is rumoured to have close associations.

This is the source of the caricature at the top.

The extent of the Kongstads’ connections to Kopenhagen Fur and the Danish Fur Breeders’ Association is at present still unclear and needs further research.

“Connections between the Danish fur industry and politics have also been explored in a recently published book entitled Skjulte penge (“Hidden money”) which was written by Chris Kjær Jessen and Carl Emil Arnfred, two investigative journalists from the leading Danish national daily newspaper Berlingske.”What is known, however, is that the Bremelandsgård fur farming operation receives coverage in the form of puff-pieces in Dansk Pelsdyravl (“Danish Fur Farming”) a bi-monthly trade magazine published by the Danish Fur Breeders’ Association with a circulation of 4,000 copies.

Kopenhagen Fur which is owned and managed by the DFBA is also known to have given publicity on its Web site to fur farming events held at Bremelandsgård.

The most recent “open day” event took place on 17 September 2016 as reported on the Kopehagen Fur Web site.

“Kopenhagen Fur which is owned and managed by the DFBA is also known to have given publicity on its Web site to fur farming events held at Bremelandsgård.”The Kongstads are members of the Agricultural Association of the Gribskov Chamber of Commerce (Erhverv Gribskov Landbrugsforening) and are known to be active in local fur breeding circles. Majbritt Kongstad is listed as a member of the executive committee and current treasurer of the Zealand Chinchilla Association (Sjællands Chinchillaforening).

Committee meetings of the Zealand Chinchilla Association regularly take place at the Kongstad farmstead.

The annual committee meeting for 2015 was held at Bremelandsgård on Saturday 30 May 2015 as can be seen from an invitation sent to the committee members [PDF].

Some people have pointed out that Kongstad’s involvement in the fur farming business could potentially involve him in conflicts of interest.

One reason given for this is that as Director General of the DKPTO he is responsible for administrative decisions relating to intellectual property rights, including trademarks, in Denmark.

“Committee meetings of the Zealand Chinchilla Association regularly take place at the Kongstad farmstead.”As can be seen from the publicly accessible online database of the DKPTO, the Danish Fur Breeders’ Association has quite a number of registered trademarks assigned under its official Danish name Dansk Pelsdyravlerforening.

The most recently registered trademark assigned to the DFBA is “KOPENHAGEN FUR INVEST” which apparently refers to a publicly traded investment fund associated with Kopenhagen Fur.

It has also been suggested that Kongstad’s involvement in commercial fur farming could raise other awkward questions due to the fact that fur farming is banned or strictly regulated in many European countries and highly controversial in others because of ethical and/or animal welfare concerns. See this page for details.

“Some people have pointed out that Kongstad’s involvement in the fur farming business could potentially involve him in conflicts of interest.”Although chinchilla fur farming is currently perfectly legal in Denmark, some people have begun to wonder whether the involvement of the Director General of the DKPTO in such an enterprise would be compatible with the “dignity requirement” applicable to Danish civil servants under § 10 of the Danish Civil Servants Act:

“Officials must conscientiously abide by the rules that apply to their position, and both within and outside the service prove worthy of the esteem and trust that the position requires.”

For the moment these are open questions but it seems that Kongstad’s connections to the Danish fur industry and in particular to Kopenhagen Fur deserve further investigation.

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