The fish was hauled to market in corfs behind Ole Mikkel Lerøen’s rowing boat from the island of Lerøy to the fish market in Bergen, a journey that could take between six and twelve hours, depending on prevailing winds and currents.
Over time, Ole Mikkel Lerøen’s operations gradually came to include retail sales in Bergen, the sale of live shellfish and a budding export business. In 1939, two of his employees, Hallvard Lerøy sr. and Elias Fjeldstad, established a wholesaler and seafood export company – Hallvard Lerøy AS. In time, the company invested in a facility where they could receive pelagic and white fish and carry out fish farming. Poor results and insufficient capitalisation in the late 1980s and early 1990s forced the company to close down its facility for receipt of fish and sell its shareholdings at that time in fish farming in order to safeguard their core operation: wholesale and exports. In 1994, the company carried out a last emergency share issue and started the process of re-establishing a healthy business. At that time, the company's equity was valued at NOK 20 million, prior to an issue worth NOK 5 million.
The potential for growth within fish farming in combination with increasing customer requirements necessitated a radical change in the Group's business concept and strategy. The new strategy was very capital intensive. Up to 1997, the Group had been a family-owned operation. In 1997, a private placing with financial investors was carried out for the first time. The purpose of the placing was to develop the Group throughout the entire value chain, and participate in the future consolidation of the fish farming industry. The initial step of what was to become a number of major investments within fish farming occurred in 1999, when the company acquired a minority interest in what was then Hydrotech-Gruppen AS. In the summer of 2001, Norskott Havbruk AS was founded with the sole purpose of acquiring Golden Sea Products, now Scottish Sea Farms Ltd. in the UK.
Access to capital and expertise
The Group was listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange in June 2002, providing access to the capital market for the Group and thereby strategic financial room to manoeuvre. Sufficient access to capital and expertise have been critical factors in the develop- ment of the Group from a wholesaler/seafood
At the turn of the new millennium, large parts of the fish farming industry were seriously under- capitalised and suffering from the impact of a short- term perspective and a lack of risk management. This was not compatible with the requirements placed on enterprises in the fish farming industry at that time. Lerøy Seafood Group had achieved a more solid position by August 2003, when they purchased Nye Midnor AS as it was then called – the company that currently makes up the main share of Lerøy Midt AS. The Group went on to acquire Lerøy Aurora AS in 2005, Fossen AS and the remaining shares in Hydrotech-Gruppen AS in 2006, Lerøy Vest in 2007 via a business combination and a majority shareholding in Sjøtroll Havbruk AS in 2010. The acquisition and demerger of Villa Organic were conducted in 2014. The above-mentioned companies along with a number of minor acquisitions have, together with highly skilled local management, been developed via organic growth to form what is now one of the world's largest producers of Atlantic salmon and trout.