Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame
Kjell Bergh is a native Norwegian who has realized the “American Dream.” The successful Minneapolis entrepreneur is involved in the travel and automotive sales industries.
Bergh was born in 1945 in Kristiansand, Norway and grew up in Oslo. He came to the United States in 1965 fresh out of high school and took odd jobs as a free-lance journalist, but returned to his native country after a year. America beckoned again in 1967, when he attended Macalester College on a Reader’s Digest scholarship. He holds a B.A. in International Relations and Journalism from the school.
Looking for temporary work, Bergh ended up at Borton Volvo. Five years later, he was the sole owner. Over the years, Bergh, built and operated four Volvo franchises and one each for Pontiac, Saab and Volkswagen. After selling dealerships in Rochester, Minn., and Delray Beach, Fla., only the franchises in South Minneapolis and Golden Valley remain, the latter of which also sells the Fisker Karma, a hybrid-electric luxury sedan. For most of the past 40 years, he has been the largest U.S. dealer of new Volvos to Americans traveling in Europe.
Although America has been Bergh’s home for decades, Scandinavia still holds a special place in his heart. That presence is reflected by Bergh’s commitment to furthering cultural economic ties between his two ‘home- lands.’ He has accompanied U.S. trade delegations to the Nordic countries, hosted. Scandinavian radio shows in the Twin Cities, and served on the boards of many Norwegian-focused organizations, including the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce.
In 1986, Bergh acquired Vanstrum Travel, which eventually become a division of Borton Overseas. Today, Borton Overseas’ three-pronged focus is Scandinavia, east and south Africa and small-ship cruises. Bergh enjoys a personal relationship with Norway’s Royal Family, fostered in part by his involvement in the travel industry. He and his wife, Maria Nhambu Bergh even hosted the family on an east African Safari!
Bergh has served on the boards of many organizations and academic institutions, including Gillette Children’s Hospital, Sons of Norway Foundation, Vinland National Center, American International Automobile Dealers Association, World Press Institute, and the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. He is a trustee emeritus and member of the executive committee, chair, and audit committee at Macalester College, as well as regent emeritus at Augsburg College. Bergh has been an Honorary Consul of Tanzania since 2000.
The Berghs have two children and live in Edina, MN.