BRATISLAVA / OSLO (VG) Christian O’Sullivan (30), who wore the captaincy for Norway in the European Handball Championship, has invested money in a foreign gaming company.
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VG revealed in 2019 that Norwegian athletes had invested millions in foreign gaming companies. It is controversial because the Norwegian Sports Confederation is fighting hard for the betting monopoly of Norsk Tipping.
The then sports president Tom Tvedt branded the investments as “disloyal to all that Norwegian sports stand for”.
– It is not illegal to invest in shares in such companies, but that athletes make investments in international gaming companies that do not respect the Norwegian exclusive rights model, appears to be unmusical, says current sports president Berit Kjøll.
In the summer and autumn of 2020, O’Sullivan had holdings in the gaming company Coolbet, according to shareholder lists the company has published.
– I have no comment on how I manage my money privately, O’Sullivan replied when VG took up the investment during a press conference in the European Handball Championship.
When VG later referred to the shareholder list and asked for a new chat with O’Sullivan, the Norwegian Handball Association wanted to wait until he was out of the performance bubble in the European Championships.
On Saturday, the answer came:
– Some time ago, I was suggested an investment opportunity by an acquaintance. It was in a company I knew little about, but I also realized that there were opportunities for profit there, says O’Sullivan through press manager Lars Hojem Kvam.
– After thinking about it, I will now sell my shareholding in the company. In light of the Norwegian gaming system, I have realized that it may be inappropriate to have shares in a foreign betting company, he adds.
The 30-year-old does not want to comment further.
Christian O’Sullivan has been captain of the German big club Magdeburg for several years. He was chosen as Norway’s leader for this year’s European Championship finals, which ended with 5th place and World Cup ticket after Friday’s thriller victory over Iceland.
Coolbet, which was started by the Norwegian Jan Svendsen, was acquired by American GAN in November 2020 for 149 million euros, equivalent to 1.6 billion kroner.
As far as VG understands, some have multiplied their efforts in a few years. VG is not aware of when O’Sullivan joined the company.
Shareholder lists show that O’Sullivan owned 1322 shares in Vincent Group, a holding company in Malta that owns the Coolbet brand and has companies in Malta, Estonia and Guernsey with a gambling license in several countries.
The shares were not listed anywhere until the company was sold, so it is difficult to put an exact value on O’Sullivan’s shares at this time.
GAN bought Coolbet for NOK 1.6 billion through a combination of cash and shares.
Berit Kjøll says she “does not like” the investment and hopes it is due to a lack of knowledge of such companies.
– I think no national team athletes want to associate their brand name with companies that undermine the financing of their own sports, she points out.
NIF has previously taken a line where athletes who have agreements with foreign gaming companies are not allowed to participate in the Olympics.
O’Sullivan participated in the Summer Olympics last year while holding shares in the gaming company. In any case, NIF would not have prevented him from doing so.
– This part of NIF’s attitude to withdrawals was about collaboration agreements, not personal investments.
Kåre Geir Lio, president of the Norwegian Handball Association, is happy that O’Sullivan now wants to sell out.
– There is nothing illegal in what he has done, but as long as he does a sport, it is a bit unwise. He’s got better thoughts, and that’s great. Sullivan is a wise boy, so it does not surprise me, he says to VG.
The handball president states that he has not been in contact with O’Sullivan about the case.
– Everything is connected in Norwegian sports. The Norwegian Handball Association supports the exclusive rights model, and we have appreciated it for many, many years. It is important that the athletes also see those connections, Lio believes.
– Can it be relevant to make changes to the players’ guidelines?
– In that case, it will be part of the contract work towards the athletes. There, we assess improvements on an ongoing basis. This can be a (improvement) – that you do not invest in that type of company when we are engaged in activity, says Lio.
– It must be up to the individual what you should invest your money in. I do not see that a company that has a European gaming license is behind any other companies. The Norwegian state itself has, through the oil fund, been a major shareholder in gaming companies in certain periods, points out Mikael Mellqvist, spokesperson for Coolbet.