By Camille BAS-WOHLERT
Danish clothing retail billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, one of Scotland’s biggest landowners who lost three of his four children in the Sri Lanka attacks, is a reclusive businessman who has jealously guarded his family’s privacy over the years.
The 46-year-old was on holiday in Sri Lanka with his wife and their children — a boy and three girls aged 5 to 15 — when suicide bombers struck churches and luxury hotels, killing more than 320 people.
Bestseller, the clothing group founded by Holch Povlsen’s parents, confirmed the deaths of three of the couple’s children. Danish media reports said they were among the victims killed at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo.
Six days ago, Alma, the Holch Polvsen’s eldest child, posted a picture on Instagram of her brother and two sisters from behind, sitting by a swimming pool.
Since the announcement of the tragedy, users of the site have left more than 6,000 condolence messages in the comments section.
Holch Povlsen, Denmark’s richest man according to Forbes magazine, is the main shareholder in online fashion retailer ASOS and owner of Bestseller, which includes brands such as Vero Moda, Only and Jack & Jones.
He was briefly hospitalised in Colombo after the attacks, according to tabloid Ekstra Bladet. Denmark’s ambassador to India told the paper on Tuesday he had already returned to Denmark.
– Protective of private life –
The Danish public know little about Holch Povlsen’s life, apart from the fact that he is a close friend of Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim, and he’s a keen hunter who likes sports cars.
“He is more protective of his private life than some members of the royal family,” says Soren Jakobsen, author of a book on Denmark’s industrial dynasties.
Holch Povlsen’s family has for example never been photographed together.
The family “did everything they could to protect themselves,” Jakobsen told Ekstra Bladet, after several incidents that sparked the family’s concern.
In 2003, a Dane mistaken for Anders Holch Povlsen was kidnapped in India. The kidnappers realised their error five days later and released the man.
“That obviously affected the family,” Jakobsen said.
Several years before that, Holch Povlsen’s father, Troels Holch Povlsen, was harassed by a man who broke into the family’s estate.
At the man’s home, police found a hideaway as well as handcuffs, flammable liquids, wigs and a book on poisonings.
– From clothes to Loch Ness –
Bestseller started out as a single boutique opened by Anders Holch Povlsen’s parents in 1975, in the western Danish town of Ringkobing.
Anders, born in 1972, took over the family business at the age of 28. The group today counts almost 3,000 stores in 70 countries.
Holch Povlsen is also a shareholder in German online shopping site Zalando, and in Swedish electronic payment and banking services group Klarna.
Forbes puts his fortune at $7.9 billion (7 billion euros), and estimates that he owns one percent of Scottish land.
Holch Povlsen describes himself as one of Scotland’s biggest landowners — among his estates is Aldourie Castle, on the banks of Loch Ness.
He developed an affinity for Scotland after vacationing there, falling for the wide open wildnerness. He acquired his first estate in the Highlands in 2006.
He has since created the Wildland company promoting conservation of the region.
“We wish to restore our parts of the Highlands to their former magnificent natural state and repair the harm that man has inflicted on them,” he says on the Wildland web page.
Back home, the Holch Povlsens live out of the limelight, on a large estate on the outskirts of Aarhus, Denmark’s second-biggest city.
After the announcement of the tragedy, neighbours have laid down flowers and candles near the home.
A torchlight vigil will be held on Thursday in the neighbourhood, the head of the local school Hojvangskolen, where two of the couple’s children were students, told Danish media.