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Denmark's Arnold M. Mc-Kinney Moeller dies

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Arnold Maersk Mc-Kinney Moeller, Denmark's richest man who created the country's largest enterprise, the shipping and oil conglomerate A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, died yesterday at the age of 98.

The shy Mc-Kinney Moeller, who was listed on Forbes magazine's annual billionaire's list, turned two small shipping companies that his father had created into a global giant with 108,000 workers across 130 countries.

The Moller-Maersk group owns the world's biggest publicly held container shipping group, Maersk Sealand.

Mc-Kinney Moeller stepped down as board chairman in 2003, at the age of 90. Five months earlier, the business titan merged the two companies that formed the nucleus of the A.P. Moeller group, creating the current A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S.

Although he withdrew from day-to-day management in 1993, when he appointed his deputy, Jess Soederberg, as chief executive, Mc-Kinney Moeller was continuously involved in the company's management.

Soederberg left the company in 2007, reportedly after a disagreement with Mc-Kinney Moeller.

In high spirits but visibly frail, Mc-Kinney Moeller made his last public appearance Thursday at the group's general assembly in Copenhagen.

"We sisters have lost a father who never betrayed either his family or his work," Ane Maersk Mc-Kinney Uggla said on behalf of the three daughters.

Mc-Kinney Moeller was a larger-than-life person in this Scandinavian country of 5.6 million. His personal fortune was estimated at $1.5 billion, while assets under his family's control were worth about $22 billion.

His death sparked reaction from the government and the royal palace. Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said Denmark had "lost an important businessman" while the royal family was "very moved" by the news, royal spokeswoman Lene Balleby said.

Mc-Kinney Moeller, whose mother was American, was a staunch supporter of the United States.

During World War II, the group's ships were engaged in allied service under British or U.S. flags. In addition, A.P. Moeller owned Maersk Line Limited, based in Norfolk, Va., which transported American troops and military equipment for the 1991 Gulf War and U.S.-led offensives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2000, Mc-Kinney Moeller reportedly ordered the sale of the group's 14 percent stake in Denmark's Berlingske media group. The sale came after a series of articles a year earlier in the Berlingske daily claiming the group had been friendly toward Nazi Germany during World War II.

Mc-Kinney Moeller brushed off the reports but never explained the stake sale.

The magnate was a close friend of Denmark's royal family and was often seen at private royal events. In a rare move, Queen Margrethe knighted him in 2000 with the Elephant Order, Denmark's top order for royals and heads of states and only rarely given to commoners.

Mc-Kinney Moeller was also known for his philanthropy. He sponsored a park near the royal palace and restored vintage ships and old buildings, including a fortification from 1626 in downtown Copenhagen.

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