The billionaire owner of ASOS and Britain’s biggest private landowner says three of his children were killed in the Sri Lanka terror attacks.
Dad-of-four Anders Holch Povlsen and his family were visiting Sri Lanka over the Easter holiday when the bombings left 290 people dead, including eight Britons.
Three days before the attacks Mr Povlsen’s daughter Alma shared a family holiday photo of her siblings Astrid, Agnes and Alfred – calling them “three little bears” – in front of a swimming pool lined by palm trees.
The 46-year-old billionaire and his wife Anne have not said which of their three children died in one of the bombings.
Mr Povlsen, who reportedly has a net worth of £4.5bn, is the largest individual private landowner in the UK after spending upwards of £100million on 12 estates in Scotland.
Denmark’s richest man, who owns the Bestseller clothing chain and is the biggest stakeholder in ASOS, had recently told how he plans to restore the Scottish Highlands and leave all of his land to his kids when he dies
The billionaire, who inherited his parents’ fortune when he was 28, fell in love with the Highlands on a family holiday in the 1980s when he was a young boy, and started snapping up land about 13 years ago.
Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday that three Danes were killed in the bombings, with a spokesman for Mr Povlsen’s empire confirming that the victims were the billionaire’s children.
The Easter Sunday blasts at churches and luxury hotels across the Indian Ocean island killed at least 290 people – including at least eight Britons – and wounded about 500.
The attacks were carried out by seven suicide bombers. Sri Lanka has blamed the Muslim extremist group National Thowheed Jamath, and declared a nationwide emergency.
Holidaymakers have been warned that “terrorist groups” are plotting more bomb attacks and possible targets include tourist sites, hotels, restaurants, airports and places of worship.
In a letter posted on his Wildland website just days ago, Mr Povlsen said he and his wife of six years, Anne Storm Pedersen, 40, plan to pass on their estates – and their “rewilding” vision for their land in Scotland – to their children when they die.
The wealthy couple own a dozen estates over more than 220,000 acres across Sutherland and the Grampian mountains, amounting to about one per cent of Scotland’s land.
They met when she began working in sales for Bestseller, the company that was founded by his father Troels in 1975 and grew into a family empire with brands including ASOS, Jack & Jones and Vero Moda.
When they aren’t staying at a former royal palace near Aarhus in Denmark, the Povlsens reside at 42,000-acre Glenfeshie in the Cairngorms after Mr Povlsen acquired the property for £7.9million in 2006.
In 2008, he bought the 23,000-acre Braeroy estate near Fort William, the nearby Tulloch estate and Lynaberack in the Cairngorms for £15.5million.
He added four more properties between 2011 and 2015, and three in 2016.
Late last year, it emerged that the couple had bought the 1,100-acre Kinrara estate near Aviemore.
The land that he owns covers an area half the size of Worcestershire.
The Povlsens, who rarely give interviews, wrote of their “rewilding” vision: “That responsibility has evolved to become a labour of love; a project that we are deeply passionate about.
“It is a project that we know cannot be realised in our lifetime, which will bear fruit not just for our own children but also for the generations of visitors who, like us, hold a deep affection the Scottish Highlands.”
The couple are restoring native woodlands, peatlands, wetland and rivers to their natural state, while trying to boost the number of threatened animals including golden eagles, wildcats, red squirrels and capercaillies.
Their plans include making the land more accessible to visitors, restoring abandoned buildings and educating children about conservation.
Their Wildland company is based in Aviemore.
The couple wrote: “From our home at Glenfeshie, both Anne and myself – our children and our parents too – have long enjoyed a deep connection with this magnificent landscape.
“As the holdings have grown and our common vision for the work becomes ever clearer, we have incorporated the entirety of the project into a venture we call Wildland.
It’s a significant and lifelong commitment that we have made – not just for ourselves but for the Scottish people and Scottish nature too – a commitment which we believe in deeply.”
They added: “We wish to restore our parts of the Highlands to their former magnificent natural state and repair the harm that man has inflicted on them.
“There are many vulnerable properties across all of the holdings that we have the wonderful and privileged opportunity to rehabilitate and restore to life; there are also archaeologically important structures that we have the responsibility to protect.”
Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the UK, Manisha Gunasekera, said on Monday that eight British nationals were killed in the Easter Sunday attacks after the death toll initially stood at five.
Ms Gunasekera told the BBC: “As of now I think there is information on eight nationals who have lost their lives and the other numbers are of other nationals.”
Ms Gunasekera said the investigations were moving “very swiftly” but warned against taking a “linear view” on the motive of the attacks.
She said: “This cuts across the ethnic and religious dimensions… it’s very difficult to see who has been targeted.
“It appears as if the entirety of Sri Lanka has been targeted as well as the unity and coexistence that Sri Lankans have attempted so hard to safeguard over the years.”
A Sri Lankan investigator confirmed the attacks on three churches and three hotels were carried out by seven suicide bombers.
Sri Lanka has blamed the Muslim extremist group National Thowheed Jamath, saying it had been warned three times of a possibly attack over the Easter holiday.
One warning reportedly came 10 minutes before the bombings began.
Two of the suicide bombers blew themselves up at the luxury Shangri-La Hotel on Colombo’s seafront, said Ariyananda Welianga, a senior official at the government’s forensic division.
The others targeted three churches and two other hotels.
A fourth hotel and a house in a suburb of the capital Colombo were also targeted, but it was not immediately known how the attacks were carried out.
The attacks mainly took place during church services or at hotel breakfast buffets.
There were similar scenes of carnage at two churches in or near Colombo, and a third church in the northeast town of Batticaloa, where worshippers had gathered for Easter Sunday services.
Pictures from the scene showed bodies on the ground and blood-spattered pews and statues.
Dozens were killed in one of the blasts at the Gothic-style St. Sebastian church in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo.
Four of the bombs went off at roughly the same time, at 8.45 am local time, with two others coming within 20 minutes.
The explosions at the fourth hotel and the house were in the afternoon.
The Sri Lankan military, who were clearing the route from Colombo airport late on Sunday, found a crude bomb near the departure gate, an air force spokesman said.
They destroyed the device in a controlled explosion.
Sri Lankans accounted for the bulk of the dead and wounded although government officials said 32 foreigners were killed, including British, US, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals.
Police said on Monday 24 people had been arrested, all of whom were Sri Lankan.