William Nygaard

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William Nygaard
William Nygaard.jpg
William Nygaard in 2009.
Born (1943-03-16) 16 March 1943 (age 78)
Oslo, Norway
Nationality Norwegian
EducationDegree in economics
OccupationChief publisher (CEO) of Aschehoug publishing house

William Nygaard (born 16 March 1943) is the retired head of the Norwegian publishing company Aschehoug. He was also chairman of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. He has two children. [1]


Business career

From 1974 to 2010 he was the chief publisher of Aschehoug, Norway's second largest publishing house, [2] which is owned by the Nygaard family. When he took this job he followed the footsteps of his father Mads Wiel Nygaard and grandfather William Martin Nygaard who was leading the company in earlier years, [3] and the tradition continues since he left the job to his son, Mads Nygaard. [4] William Nygaard was chairman of the Norwegian Publishers Association from 1987 to 1990. [5] From 2010 to 2014 he was employed as a director of NRK (the state owned TV of Norway). [6]

Assassination attempt

On 12 April 1989 Aschehoug and William Nygaard were responsible for publishing the Norwegian edition of Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses . [7] This was two months after Ayatollah Khomeini issued the following fatwa against Salman Rushdie and his publishers:

I inform all zealous Muslims of the world that the author of the book entitled The Satanic Verses — which has been compiled, printed and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur'an — and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death. I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, wherever they may be found, so that no one else will dare to insult the Muslim sanctities. God Willing, whoever is killed on this path is a martyr. [8]

Owing to the fatwa, direct threats were made against William Nygaard and translator Kari Risvik, and in the resulting controversy, Nygaard was given police protection for a period.

On the morning of 11 October 1993, Nygaard was shot three times outside his home in Dagaliveien in Oslo. [9] Most people — including Nygaard [10] — link the incident to the fatwa. After several months of hospitalization, mostly at Sunnaas Hospital, Nygaard slowly recovered. [10] In early October 2018, almost a quarter century after the attempted assassination, charges were made against the alleged perpetrators. Their names and nationalities were not publicized at the time. [11] In November 2021 the two were identified as the Lebanese man Khaled Moussawi and an unnamed former Iranian diplomat. [12]

Other positions

Both before and after the attack, William Nygaard has been an outspoken defender of free speech, and is a board member of the Norwegian division of International PEN. [13] [14] He is a member of the Norwegian Academy for Language and Literature. [15]

He has been a member of the board of Norway's National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. [16] In 2010 he was elected chairman of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. [17]


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  1. A page about a video interview with Nygaard (in Norwegian) Archived October 29, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  2. Norwegian Official Report on plurality in media, NOU 1995:3 Archived January 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  3. The history of Aschehoug publishing house (in Norwegian) Archived February 5, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  4. Newspaper article in DN (in Norwegian) Archived April 5, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  5. Newspaper article from Aftenposten (in Norwegian) Archived September 3, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  6. Kulturdepartementet (2010-06-10). "William Nygaard ny styreleder i NRK". Regjeringen.no (in Norwegian). Retrieved 2020-01-06.
  7. A timeline of the events of the Satanic Verses controversy (in Norwegian) Archived October 14, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  8. Notes for Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses, including the text of the fatwa Archived February 13, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  9. Interview with Helga Waagaard who was first to find Nygaard and call for an ambulance (in Norwegian) Archived October 26, 2004, at the Wayback Machine
  10. 1 2 https://web.archive.org/web/20041126020137/http://www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/iriks/article645030.ece
  11. Pryser Libell, Henrik and Richard Martyn-Hemphill (10 October 2018). "25 Years Later, Norway Files Charges in Shooting of 'Satanic Verses' Publisher". New York Times. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  12. Isungset, Odd (2021-11-12). "NRK avslører: Var diplomat ved Irans ambassade i Oslo – siktet for Nygaard-attentatet i 1993". NRK (in Norwegian Bokmål). Retrieved 2021-11-12.
  13. Listing of the board of the Norwegian PEN Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  14. "William Nygaard gjenvalgt som styreleder i Norsk PEN". Den norske Forfatterforening (DnF) (in Norwegian Bokmål). 22 April 2015. Retrieved 2020-01-06.
  15. "Det Norske Akademi for Sprog og Litteratur" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Academy for Language and Literature. Archived from the original on 10 February 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2009.
  16. Listing of the board of the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design Archived May 19, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  17. Didriksen, Nina; Fenne, Marit (10 June 2010). "William Nygaard ny styreleder i NRK" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
  18. Henriksen, Petter, ed. (2007). "Fritt Ords pris". Store norske leksikon (in Norwegian). Oslo: Kunnskapsforlaget. Archived from the original on 15 November 2011. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  19. "Tidligere vinnere – NO24 – Gunnar Sønstebys minnefond" (in Norwegian Bokmål). Retrieved 2020-01-06.
Preceded by Recipient of the Fritt Ord Award
Succeeded by
Media offices
Preceded by Chair of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation
Succeeded by
Birger Magnus