Sunday, 5 July 2009

Hitkrant, November 1983: Financial miscalculation was threatening ABBA

An article from Dutch magazine Hitkrant about ABBA’s financial mishap in 1983. The article gives the impression that Stig was still very much in control of ABBA’s activities. There's even talk of a new ABBA-album to be recorded out of the leftovers from the Chess sessions. In reality, the four members were going their own way. The poster included here comes from a 1981 Hitkrant magazine.
Is ABBA broke? Have the wrong financial investments that the newspapers couldn’t stop writing about the past few weeks sealed the group’s fate? There’s someone who has the answer to these questions and recently that someone stopped over in Holland for reasons unknown: the ‘father of ABBA’, super-manager Stig Anderson. We had an exclusive interview with him, in which Stig revealed what’s going on with ABBA. Indeed, gigantic financial setbacks, but for the time being Agnetha, Frida, Björn and Benny are still making a very decent living.

Let’s take a moment to explain how the gigantic ABBA-enterprise is set up: the company that manages the finances and works with the capital by buying shares and investing money in all sorts of projects is called Polar Music Invest. That company has three subsidiaries: Badhus, that deals in real estate, Infina, that engages in the territory of stocks and bonds and Kuben, that has the manufacturing of bicycles by subsidiary Monark as its main activity. And Kuben fell flat.

The bicycles weren’t sufficient and last year Kuben started to get more and more in debt by speculating on the oil market with borrowed money. As it turned out, it has brought Kuben on the verge of bankruptcy; the trading company Aritmos is willing to cover for the loss of 40 million Dutch guilders, but then they will have to get control over the company as well.
ABBA has 53 percent of the shares and will have to sell due to this oil fiasco. “Indeed, it has cost us a lot of money,” Stig Anderson explains, “but not to the point that we would go bankrupt. However, it’s true that at a certain point we didn’t know anymore what to do with all those millions pouring in from record sales and publishing rights; just for fun we started investing in all kinds of things. Soon, Frida and Agnetha weren’t very interested in that anymore, they didn’t understand it that well either. That’s when they sold their shares, which left Benny, Björn and me with 24 percent of the Kuben shares. Well, they are now worth about half as much.”

ABBA’s capital is estimated at 200 million Dutch guilders and that gigantic amount is caught up in all kinds of businesses. “We own supermarkets, financing companies, recording studios and several music publishing companies. Polar Music Invest is now completely separated from Polar Music International and in that last company it’s all about music. If ABBA would break up today, millions would still be pouring in from the publishing rights for the next fifty years,” Stig Anderson states.
But Aritmos is now willing to make up for Kuben’s loss, but in return they want to get hold of shares in Polar Music: ABBA would have to give up 21 percent of Polar Music. And it remains to be seen if it will all work out: there are so many different interests involved that it seems like an indissoluble knot.

“But ABBA is definitely not dead,” Stig says. “We couldn’t go on for a while; last year I had to take precautions to keep the group together. Benny and Björn finally wanted to write a musical; that would take them two years and I have given them that time. Meanwhile, I’ve put Frida and Agnetha on their solo projects and as you know: with success. Agnetha is going to do a promotional tour around the world and next month Frida will get into the studio again with Phil Collins for her next solo album.”
“Benny and Björn are almost finished with the musical and there are a lot of songs left, that could be extremely well-suited for ABBA; an album will be compiled from those songs. So there’s definitely more ABBA-music to be heard! The musical will have its premiere at Broadway, but ABBA will not appear in it, because a successful musical is on stage for ten years and do you see ABBA performing on Broadway for ten years?”
So there are major financial setbacks, but still enough plans. And as long as Benny, Björn, Agnetha and Frida occupy themselves with their music, it all seems to be serene!

1 comment:

George said...

I read the similar Stig's statements in English language periodicals, and yes he wanted ABBA to record an album from Chess outtakes.

Stig apparently was losing his grip on ABBA's activities completely and tried to look positive and act managerial, which couldn't be further from the reality. And reality was that by that time all four had their own separate lives and didn't care much about Stig and his plans anymore, especially after separating from him financially.