Inside Move: Secret son stirs storm over Stenbeck stash

Scion of the times

What’s one sibling more or less?

A lot more circulation, if the brouhaha in the Swedish tabloids over a 5-year-old son and just-discovered secret heir to the estate of Swedish media mogul Jan Stenbeck is any indicator.

The emerging fracas may be a knockdown drag-out family feud of the sort that Stenbeck, who died suddenly on Aug. 19, had 30 years ago — one that gave him control of his empire in the first place.

The confirmed existence of a fifth child, given Stenbeck’s flamboyant rep, barely raised an eyebrow among the free-living Swedes. But speculation that the child’s claim on the Stenbeck fortune could somehow topple the mogul’s broadcast, print and telco empire have hit the tabloids like a hot episode from one of those soapy strands shown on Stenbeck’s TV channels.

Johan Bjorkmann, president of holding company Invik, which governs Stenbeck’s nest of interlocking companies, downplays the tabloid razzmatazz, telling one Swedish daily he sees “no reason why five instead of four siblings make that much difference.”

He points out that any way you look at it, the kid gets 10%. Indeed, how the estate gets divvied up is cut and dried in Sweden: The widow gets 50% and each of the kids gets 10%. And the trusts make it difficult for any of the family to get their mitts on the company assets, which include media outfit Modern Times Group and telco Tele2.

But legal eagles say a battle still could be looming: If the mother of the 5-year-old wants to cash out immediately, it might pose some problems, notes one expert.

Or how about an even tastier tabloid scenario: Claes Hemberg from Swedish stock brokerage Avanza Fund Commission tells Variety, “This family has been very tight, and while the child is only 5, if his mother has another opinion as to how the business should be run, there could be a family feud similar to the one that Stenbeck himself had when his father died.”

In that dust-up, which shocked Swedish society, Stenbeck dragged his family through a protracted court battle that left him in control of a huge steel and timber fortune — which he promptly invested in media.

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