In 1938, Denmark was on the cusp of its most challenging period of the 20th Century. In less than two years, Nazi Germany would invade this Nordic nation and militarily occupy it until the end of World War II in 1945. Into this milieu was born Jan Bonde Nielsen.
He was a mere child as the war’s events played out, but perhaps these challenging times instilled in him an intense drive to find success and make the world a better place to live. Jan Bonde Nielsen grew up to become a serially successful entrepreneur. He is perhaps most well known today as an “oil tycoon,” but his business interests vary widely.
One of Jan Bonde Nielsen’s most remarkable endeavors was the establishment of a flower-growing operation in Africa. Based in Kenya, DCK International grew to encompass the cultivation of more than five million square meters. The company brought jobs and opportunities to poor Kenyans who had few other opportunities during this period of the 1960s. At one point, Jan Bonde Nielsen’s DCK International provided jobs for 7,000 Kenyans. It also launched an all-new form of horticulture never before established in the East African nation.
A significant milestone for Jan Bonde Nielsen came in 1974. That year he acquired 51% of the shares in Burmeister & Wain. This was one of the oldest industrial firms of Denmark. Its operations included building ships and marine diesel engines. Industry observers opened called Jan Bonde Nielsen’s decision to purchase a majority share of Burmeister & Wain “risky in the extreme.” But after just his second year of ownership, the once floundering maritime operation was turning a profit.
Jan Bonde Nielsen’s restless entrepreneurial mind never strayed far from his beloved Africa. In 1885, he partnered with Sir Michael Wood to help found Food & Agriculture Management Ltd. This group supports African farmers and helps them to grow food in a financially viable way. The organization operates primarily in Kenya and Ethiopia. The focus is on innovative small-scale farming methods that are sustainable.
Jan Bonde Nielsen supports many charities, including the Virunga Foundation and its Virunga Fund. This organization is based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and supports the Virunga National Park, home to endangered mountain gorillas, elephants, and numerous other threatened species.