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‘Thon Hotels’ is one of Norway’s leading hotel chains, with about 9,300 rooms in 65 hotels in Norway. In addition, the hotel chain has 1,750 rooms abroad, spread over five hotels and two apartment hotels in Belgium, one hotel in the Netherlands and one in Sweden. Thon Hotels is a dominant player in the metropolitan regions of Oslo and Bergen, focusing mainly on business travelers. In addition to the hotel restaurants, the Group has several separate restaurants as well, including Scotsman, Tre Brødre and Tostrup Uteservering in Oslo.

In December 2013, the owner of Thon Hotels, Olav Thon, transferred the majority of his assets – shares in Olav Thon Gruppen AS, worth EUR 2,703 billion – to the Olav Thon Foundation. This foundation’s primary purpose is to conduct the business activities of the Olav Thon Group and underlying companies in accordance with the main business management principles adopted by Olav Thon. Of the foundation’s profits, up to EUR 5.4 million – EUR 10.8 million in exceptional cases – may be awarded to charitable causes defined in the foundation’s articles of association. Such causes mainly relate to scientific research. Therefore, the Olav Thon Foundation gives annual economic support to scientific projects within mathematics, natural science, and medicine. This includes up to ten annual prizes of EUR 54,000 each, given to Norwegian or foreign scientists, and an annual international prize of EUR 540,000.

A self-made billionaire born in 1923, Olav Thon started off as a farm boy, building his real estate empire from the early 1950s and amassing a group with close to 500 properties, including hotels, retail space and office buildings.

Olav Thon expressed the following underlying thoughts behind the foundation:

“It is important for me that the future of the Olav Thon Group is safeguarded, so that the business provides secure jobs for all its employees and can also work both to promote the non-profit purposes that I wish to support and for society in general. I have decided to set up the ‘Olav Thon Foundation’ for this purpose.

The foundation will receive all shares in Olav Thon Gruppen AS, which is the leading company in the Olav Thon Group. The shares will constitute the foundation’s equity and are valued at around EUR 2,703 billion.

I have thought a lot about this matter in recent years. My conclusion is that safeguarding the future collective development of the Olav Thon Group, whilst at the same time ensuring that a proportion of the profits that the business generates can be distributed to various non-profit purposes, is the best contribution towards social development that I can make.”

The Olav Thon Foundation awarded its first research prizes and grants on 5 March 2015, and future awards are made at around the same time each year. The prizes are awarded at a ceremony in the University of Oslo Aula, with a subsequent gala dinner at the Hotel Bristol to honor the winners. Other funding for purposes within the foundation’s specified areas is awarded more informally throughout the course of the year.