Who is the man set to become Scotland’s biggest landowner?

Ben Hope, seen from the west shore of Loch Eriboll, is among Povlsen's land holdings in Scotland. Picture: Wikicommons
Ben Hope, seen from the west shore of Loch Eriboll, is among Povlsen's land holdings in Scotland. Picture: Wikicommons
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Anders Holch Povlsen has become one of the most talked about men in Scotland in recent weeks. But who is he?

THE MAN

Anders Holch Povlsen, a billionaire businessman from Denmark, owns around one per cent of Scotland. Picture: Contributed

Anders Holch Povlsen, a billionaire businessman from Denmark, owns around one per cent of Scotland. Picture: Contributed

Povlsen is the CEO and sole owner of Bestseller, a fashion company based in Denmark. He was born in 1972, and inherited the business from his parents aged 28. Bestseller owns several well-known clothing brands, including Vero Moda, Mamalicious and Jack and Jones, as well as a 27 per cent stake in ASOS, the UK’s largest online fashion retailer. Forbes magazine estimates Povlsen’s personal wealth at $5.8 billion.

LAND OWNERSHIP

Povlsen aquired his first Scottish estate, Glenfeshie, in 2006 and has been steadily buying up more land since. He now owns 11 estates north of the border - a total of 218,364 acres, or about one per cent of Scotland’s land mass. Povlsen’s land holdings are second only to Richard Scott, the 10th Duke of Buccleuch. But while successive holders of the Buccleuch title have slowly amassed their ownership over five centuries, the Dane has acquired his Scottish assets in little over a decade.

WHAT’S HIS MOTIVATION?

Povlsen seldom gives interviews, but his love of Scotland and his passion for rewilding has been widely reported. He has overseen a reinvention of the Glenfeshie estate - brought about by a drastic reduction in deer numbers, which has allowed other species to return. Around 1,200 acres of Caledonian pine forest have been brought back to life, while Juniper, willow, alder and birch are all thriving and pine martens, black grouse and capercaillies have been spotted.

WHAT DO OTHERS SAY ABOUT HIM?

“His take on it is that he runs a big business that extracts and pollutes and this is his way of putting something back, not only from an ecological point of view, but also socially,” said wildlife photographer Peter Cairns, who has worked with Povlsen. “His long-term plan is to tick many of those boxes which include local employment and young people in rural communities having the opportunity for a meaningful career. It’s not just about growing trees, it’s about a long-term sustainable nature-based economy.”

Cairns continued: “Povlsen is aware of the perception of him being a foreign landowner coming in with all his money and moving people off the land – the traditional clichés. He wants to reverse all that.”

WHAT DO LAND REFORM CAMPAIGNERS THINK?

“I don’t think it’s acceptable that anyone from anywhere can buy as much land as they like in Scotland,” Scottish Green Party MSP Andy Wightman told the Scotland on Sunday. “The fact Mr Povlsen appears to be doing the right thing and making welcome investments doesn’t justify a lottery in the land market.”

Malcolm Combe, an Aberdeen University-based lawyer, who served on Scottish Government’s Land Reform Review Group, said: “While Povlsen is benign and munificent, that’s down to his personal choices. So there is still a policy question as to whether or not people think it’s acceptable.”

READ MORE: Dane set to become Scotland’s biggest landowner