Twenty years ago, once a week, the streets of Reykjavík would empty, families throughout the country would gather around the television and sit still for one hour. It was Wednesday night – Dallas night. These days Icelanders are waking up early to tune into the latest episode in the Baugur saga. For the fourth day in a row accusations fly and threats are made on the front pages of Fréttabladid and Morgunbladid.
The uproar began Saturday morning when Fréttabladid broke a story linking Independence Party insiders to the Baugur case.
Yesterday, the Baugur owned daily DV broke an unwritten rule in the Icelandic media – reporting on illicit love affairs. “They are lovers” ran the headline, alluding to an alleged relationship between Jónína Benediksdóttir, the former girlfriend of Baugur CEO’s father, and Styrmir Gunnarsson, longtime editor of the Morgunbladid. Many found the caption distasteful while others said that this was the new type of media known for many years abroad.
Whether this is what triggered Styrmir Gunnarsson to unload and publish documents on the front page of Morgunbladid today, documents that he has held onto for years but not seen fit to publish, is unknown. “Private investigator hired and threats made in emails” reads the Morgunbladid headline. The article describes how the Baugur family hired a private investigator to spy on Jón Gerald Sullenberger, one time business partner of Baugur who filed charges against Baugur management after falling out with Baugur CEO Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson. Morgunbladid publishes quotes from personal emails and details threat that were made.
Baugur owned Fréttabladid publishes an email from Jónína Benediktsdóttir on its front page. In it she seems to be attempting to blackmail former Baugur CEO Tryggvi Jónsson into paying her a sum of ISK 200 million, and threatens that she may otherwise leak documents she has about Baugur to undisclosed sources.
“Tomorrow I need to file for bankruptcy but I had ISK 200 million before I became involved with the world’s first family of jerks,” writes Jónína. She continues to say, “I can bury you all because people listen to me.”
In a response from Tryggvi Jónsson he advises her to go to the police if she believes laws have been broken.
Both Morgunbladid and Fréttabladid report on alleged death threats. In an email in Fréttabladid Tryggvi Jónsson warns Jónína of listening to Jón Gerald Sullenberger since he had recently twice threatened to kill Jón Ásgeir and therefore must be unstable. On the front page of Morgunbladid, Jón Gerald Sullenberger is quoted saying that Tryggvi Jónsson threatened him and his family. Jón Gerald also says that Baugur’s US lawyers had received instructions to kill him financially.