Dagens Nærigsliv’s misleading claims about the CEO swap at Opera?

Disclaimer: I do not have access to any non-public information on this matter. Furthermore, this blog post constitutes my personal observations, and should under no circumstances be considered an official statement on the matter from Opera Software.

DN's sensationalist headline

The main headline on Norwegian business tabloid Dagens Næringsliv (DN) today is Jon's resignation as CEO of Opera Software:

"Steps down after massive pressure"

The massive pressure, DN claims, is based on a conflict between the former CEO and other major shareholders. His position has allegedly been brought up several times in the board. DN claims that the situation escalated in 2007, and a clash based on demand for Jon's resignation caused him to use his shares to replace the old board.

As far as I can tell, this article is based on sensationalist and misleading claims made by DN in 2007, which means that the actual contents of the article should be taken with a grain of salt.

Read on for details. …

Back to 2007

As it happens, I covered these claims back in 2007. My conclusion was that the claims from DN seemed to be false, or at best a huge exaggeration. It turns out that Jon was never asked to step down after all, and the claimed "shareholder uproar" amounted to an incredible 0.16% voting against the board which was replace the one Jon allegedly fired. As I said back then, since when did 0,16% constitute an "uproar"? If major shareholders were so unhappy, why did they support the new board?

In today's article, DN claims to have talked to shareholders who have been wanting Jon to resign for a long time. But they claimed the same thing back in 2007. And in today's story, DN admits that no shareholders are willing to come forward and express their criticism in public. Again, if these "major shareholders" are so disappointed, why did they not use their votes back in 2007 to show this, and why are they not willing to go public today?

Who to trust?

So when today's sensationalist article by DN turns out to be based on an equally sensationalist (and as far as I can tell, misleading) story from 2007, what conclusions can we draw from that?

At first glance, it's word against word.

DN claims to have talked to major shareholders, and that the decision to replace Jon was made after the third quarter results of 2009. Opera claim that Lars Boilesen was brought in a year ago with the ultimate goal to replace Jon. His stepping down had nothing to do with any specific quarterly results, they claim.

But then we can look at the actual facts.

DN claimed that Jon fired the board because they wanted to fire him in 2007. It turns out that Jon was never asked to resign. This is supported by the fact that a mere 0.16% of the shareholders voted against the new board which was to replace the old one.

The conclusion

Considering DN's track record of questionable journalistic practices in certain cases, and misleading and sensationalist headlines, I know who I would trust. Considering the facts from 2007, and the fact that today's story is based on those, the obvious conclusion from my perspective is that today's article is equally misleading and sensationalist.

But as I said, I do not have any kind of inside information on this. I could be wrong, and DN could be right. But they have failed to convince me, and while I may be biased, I believe the facts as they are known to the public do speak for themselves.

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