We have written earlier about the lost opportunity that the citizens of the northern Norwegian city of Bodø suffered when the city was prompted to dissociate with American smart infrastructure developer Danny Hayes in 2018 because of an untrue and targeted reporting and a media campaign.
In 2018, Danny Hayes and Soheila Yalpani were contacted by the city of Bodø in their capacity as representatives of Harvester Trust regarding the city’s plans for large-scale technology investment and development. Harvester Trust involves a group of about twenty descendants of Cyrus McCormick, who was a highly successful agricultural entrepreneur in the 19th century. Hayes and Yalpani were associates of Sargent McCormick, one the McCormick descendants who represented the Harvester Trust brand. Sargent became very active in the affairs of the trust and has pursued a variety of projects in the United States and internationally.
Danny Hayes was authorized by the Harvester Trust to seek financing on behalf of the trust to invest in potential projects in a joint venture with the city of Bodø. Before traveling to Bodø, Hayes met with a large New York investment bank that is interested in large tech startups and IPOs. Because the proposed projects with Bodø were with a municipality, the bank expressed interest in investing in a separate acquisition company designed to work with the city in a joint venture. The bank did not wish to be identified in the reporting that arose later in this matter but did express that the bank’s written commitment to Harvester Trust and the proposed project was express and serious.
The Norwegian acquisition company for the Bodø project that was created was Borealis Industries AS, which was 51 percent owned by British Virgin Islands corporation Stonebridge Asset Management and 49 percent by Norwegian partners of Stonebridge, Trond Larsen and Kjell Ivar Hansen Røsnes. Meanwhile, Stonebridge was two-thirds owned by Hayes and Yalpani and one-third owned by attorney Balbir Bindra. Bindra also established the associated corporations and documents to create Stonebridge and Borealis Industries. Hayes and Yalpani intended to exchange the interest of Bindra in Stonebridge for his expertise and skill in creating and representing the associated structures.
However, Bindra did not transfer correct documentation to Hayes and Yalpani showing their ownership through Stonebridge in Borealis Industries. It also became very apparent in short order that Bindra, Larsen, and Hansen were working together to drive the company in the direction dictated by Bindra — one focused on data center and fiber construction projects. It also became apparent that Bindra was motivated to drive Hayes and Yalpani out of Borealis Industries. At Bindra’s direction, Larsen and Hansen voted to dissolve Borealis Industries. As a result, the company’s assets were divided between Larsen, Hansen, and Bindra. Hayes, and Yalpani were left out of the distribution, in that their ownership documents had never been properly delivered.
Larsen and Hansen then formed a new Norwegian company, Arctic Capacity, to carry on the business they had proposed at the direction of Bindra for Borealis Industries. Larsen and Hansen have not officially confirmed whether Bindra continues to represent or hold any interest in Arctic Capacity. Bindra left his job with at his law firm in late 2018 and has not appeared to join any new firm or practice publicly since.
Hayes and Yalpani, along with previously associated Simon Flack, then formed Borealis Engineering as a Norwegian company to continue the work of Borealis Industries. Borealis Engineering intended to continue with the same group of investors, financial partners, and engineers (primarily the world’s largest engineering firm AECOM) in moving forward with the city of Bodø.
Finding themselves in direct competition with Hayes, Yalpani, and Flack, but without their connections, financial backing, or expertise, Hansen and Larsen began the process of recruiting members of the local press to publish false and inflammatory information especially directed at Danny Hayes.
Larsen and Hansen made a variety of false allegations, later recanted, that during the operation of Borealis Industries Hayes improperly used company funds. They also spread mistruths to the media about the reasons for the dissolution of Borealis Industries. Larsen and Hansen used a personal relationship with journalists like Geir Are Jensen and Markus Jensen of Bodø Nu to initiate a firestorm of highly negative press directed at Hayes. The massive volume of highly defamatory press in a small city like Bodø eventually caused partners and the city to abandon their relationships with Borealis Engineering.
Bodø Nu and its reporters used a general lack of local knowledge about international financing to press their narrative that Danny Hayes was acting improperly and to fan the flames of distrust of a foreign developer showing an interest in Bodø.
The efforts of Hayes and Borealis Engineering continue to benefit the city of Bodø, despite Larsen and Hansen’s efforts to smear Hayes and his associates. AECOM the engineering firm that Danny Hayes brought to the field is still working on several projects in the region. Hansen and Larsen refuse to comment on whether they are still in contact with AECOM.
The Norwegian State Secretary said of Hayes, “some of the foremost capital and knowledge environments have attracted interest in Bodø. There was talk of . . . scams, but I can’t see who should have been fooled in that case.” As time passes, it becomes more obvious that Hayes, Yalpani, and Flack–as well as the city of Bodø–were targeted by greedy smear campaigns aimed at personal gain at the expense of the people of Bodo.