For many years it has been rumoured that the model for the fiendish Montgomery Burns in The Simpsons was none other than Norwegian billionaire Fred Olsen, head of a fourth-generation family shipping empire firm which dates back to 1848.
The comparison has always seemed a bit peculiar, as the amoral nuclear power plant-owning Burns could hardly be further in personality from Olsen, who has used a family’s shipping firm as a base to create a hugely successful renewable energy company – he has invested over $1bn in renewables since the late 90s.
But the rumours have persisted, mostly because there is a striking physical resemblance between Olsen and Burns, who are both beanpole-thin, and with impish grins. Those who have fallen foul of Olsen’s business decisions not surprisingly perceive some resemblance. A Scottish member of parliament who worked for an Olsen firm in Dundee in the 80s and 90s once called the comparison “probably quite accurate”.
“In my conversations with him, it was clear that even Olsen himself believed he’d been the inspiration for the Burns character,” wrote the author of a rare recent interview which Olsen gave to Fortune.
Finally the truth can be told and the rumours laid to bed. As part of their interview Forbes contacted Matt Groening, The Simpsons’ creator, and asked him whether Burns and Olsen were in any way related. Not all all, said Groening. How did Olsen react when told? “He paused for several seconds before blurting out, ‘I’m thankful!’” reports Fortune. Proof that even titans of industry have a vulnerable side.