Saturday, 9 October 2010

Story, 1983: ABBA’s goodbye to the rich life

The end of ABBA is now definitely in sight. They had barely dealt with their personal problems when the group had to face a major financial setback. Recently, the news became public that the ABBA concern has made a practically insurmountable loss of 20 million Dutch guilders.

The ABBA fairytale is over. The love that tied the quartet together in two pairs was long gone already and now that a financial setback of about 20 million Dutch guilders has made the ABBA empire waver, the rich years of love, success and money seem to be over permanently. The four musicians and their manager have made a substantial loss on a business transaction through their real estate company called Kuben and the ABBA members have to make up for this loss of 20 million out of their own pocket. Only the dark-haired Frida isn’t losing any sleep over this, because apparently she sensed the catastrophe and sold her Kuben shares just in time. Apart from that, she moved from Stockholm to London a while later, where the tax environment is much milder.
“And because I want to concentrate primarily on my solo career at the moment, I thought it would be better to distance myself from ABBA and everything that goes with it,” is what Frida told Story a couple of months ago about her move to England. This was probably a wise decision because on a musical level things aren’t going well with ABBA either. Björn and Benny may still work from nine to five every day at the office of their own recording studio Polar Music, but a new single – let alone a new album – still hasn’t appeared yet. But they are planning to release some kind of ABBA compilation album in the spring of 1984 that – according to manager Stig Anderson (51) – will achieve gold status within a matter of time.

“Concerts and new records or not, ABBA is still the most popular group in the world and their records are selling like hotcakes,” according to Stig who also introduced ‘his’ quartet into the world of the big money. For instance, ABBA invested 6 million in a supermarket, 15 million in a multi-storey car park, 15 million in a shopping mall, 10 million in recording studio, 20 million in a luxurious hotel, 8 million in a gasoline depository with a motor car paint shop and 150 million in a warehouse chain. And in many Swedish warehouses trousers, shirts, blouses and socks of the brand ABBA can be found. But there are ABBA books and magazines as well. All in all, the ABBA concern – with a turnover of 180 million Dutch guilders per year – is one of the biggest companies in Sweden. And when Agnetha, Frida, Benny and Björn were invited to a gala dinner with Queen Silvia and King Carl Gustaf in 1979, it was rumoured that the ABBA members had more money than the Swedish royalty. Still Benny insisted to the Swedish press recently: “Money doesn’t mean much to me. I think it’s much more fun to create great music than make a lot of money. When I get up in the morning in a bad mood, it disappears right away when I sit down at the piano. I could live without wealth, but I would die without music.”

But Stig Anderson, who has become a very wealthy man thanks to ABBA, has a different opinion about the matter: “You have to regard music as a consumer article, just like bread and butter. People can hardly live without it. It would be silly if you wouldn’t take advantage of that. If they want music, they are going to get it. ABBA will see to that. In my office there is a sign that says: ‘Everybody talks about money. We don’t. We make it.’ And underneath that I should actually write: ‘And we know how to deal with it as well.’ And that’s the truth, because I turned Benny, Björn, Frida and Agnetha not only into stars but into entrepreneurs as well. And it’s fine by me if the people know that.” It wasn’t a coincidence that Stig wrote the worldwide hit ‘Money, Money, Money’ for ABBA.
Of course it’s true that the four ABBA members owe a lot to Stig both on a musical and on a business level, but he forgets to mention that he has made enormous financial miscalculations as well. For instance, with money from the ABBA concern he bought lithographs by Marc Chagall amounting to 4,5 million Dutch guilders. Unfortunately they turned out to be fake. Gone 4,5 million!
A couple of months later he lost 2 million Dutch guilders in the oil business. That money was coming from the ABBA company as well. At the time, the concern still had enough financial means to cover the losses. But this was different when it turned out recently that Kuben had made a loss of 20 (!) million Dutch guilders. Now Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Stig will have to lend a hand themselves. None of them wanted to comment on the matter.
Only Frida who – like we said earlier – doesn’t have any interests in Kuben any longer, said openly: “These financial setbacks and our personal problems are causing the group to fall apart, slowly but surely. I started a solo career and I moved to London. I’ve said goodbye to ABBA already. Agnetha, Benny and Björn aren’t able to do that yet. But in the near future they will have to realize as well that the fairytale of ABBA is over!”

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