The "King of Orkla", Jens Paludan Heyerdahl the younger, seems to have lost the struggle for the Norwegian food, media, chemical and financial group he has run for the past 22 years.

At Orkla's AGM yesterday he unexpectedly resigned, supporting a proposal for a new board that will include a number of his critics.

Battle lines had been drawn up before the AGM and several small shareholders had expressed support for Heyerdahl and their dissatisfaction with the proposal to change 11 of the 14 board members. When Heyerdahl supported the changes however, the air went out of the balloon.

On the Norwegian website newspaper Nettavisen, Heyerdahl apologised for the tumult at the company over the past nine months. There have been accusations of abuse of power and questionable methods between Heyerdahl and financier Christen Sveaas, one of Orkla's biggest shareholders. After the meeting Sveaas shook Heyerdahl's hand and congratulated him on a "wise recommendation."

By Penny Leese, correspondent