Second richest man in Iceland now bankrupt

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REYKJAVIK, Iceland -- The second richest man in Icelandic history has filed for bankruptcy, his spokesman said Friday.

Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, the brewer-turned-billionaire and former owner of the West Ham soccer club, applied for bankruptcy protection at Reykjavik district court, 96 billion Icelandic kronur ($759 million) in debt, Asgeir Fridgeirsson said.

It is the largest bankruptcy filing in Icelandic history.

Gudmundsson was the elder half of a father-and-son pair of billionaires whose success was synonymous with the country’s debt-fueled economic miracle. But their fortunes faltered when the Icelandic economy imploded last year under the impact of the credit crunch.

Gudmundsson, 68, and his son, 42-year-old Bjorgolfur Thor Bjorgolfsson, still Iceland’s richest man, were major shareholders in Iceland’s second largest bank, Landsbanki, which failed in October. Gudmundsson’s holding company, Hansa, has since gone into liquidation and West Ham has been taken over by his creditors.

In December, Forbes magazine, which once rated his personal fortune at $1.4 billion, revised his net worth to zero.

Gudmundsson’s son remains a billionaire.

It is not the first time the Gudmundsson has gotten into trouble. Already a successful shipping executive in the 1980s, he was charged with fraud and embezzlement in the aftermath of the 1985 collapse of his firm Hafskip. He was eventually found guilty on five minor counts and escaped a jail sentence, serving 12 months’ probation.

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