Jan Brentebraten went to university in the US state of Montana on a cross-country skiing scholarship. A former member of Norway's national skiing team, he combined skiing with a degree in business administration. A master's degree in international management followed. Brentebraten was recruited from college by Ford in 1978 and has worked in finance, pricing, dealer operations and sales. He moved to Mazda in 1996. He has been president of Mazda Motor Europe since 1998 and a director of Mazda Motor Corp. since June 1999.
President, Mazda Motor Europe.
Managing director and president, Mazda Deutschland.
All Scandinavian languages, English, reasonable German, some French.
Married, one daughter age 12.
Skiing, jogging, bicycling.
First job in the car business:
At Ford Norway.
Cars most admired?
Mazda RX7, Porsche 911.
What kind of music do you like?
I used to go for the real hard stuff. My favorite group was the J Geils Band. I still listen to Fleetwood Mac and I like Bruce Springsteen. I've seen him in concert several times.
Do you like movies?
Yes, but I rarely get to see them. My family is frustrated with me, especially my daughter. She bought me the video of Titanic but I still haven't managed to watch it.
What are you good at?
My job, cooking, skiing.
Biggest character influence?
Cross-country skiing. It is an endurance sport. You push yourself until you taste the blood in your mouth. It makes you very tough and determined. In my case determined to the point of being stubborn sometimes.
Turning around Mazda in Norway, the Netherlands and Germany. Implementing difficult restructuring situations involving people who were my friends and still are.
Biggest crisis in business?
Losing an argument at corporate level against major headcount cuts, coping with my biggest dealer going bankrupt and other dealers looking very shaky when you've just arrived to take over a market.
How do you relax?
By cooking - with a glass of wine in hand. Also walking our dog Goya (a golden retriever) with my wife and daughter. I've just taken up roller blading and that's good fun. But my technique needs refinement. I have problems stopping. So far I've had a few hard encounters with my neighbor's hedge.
Anything Italian. But probably pasta with a fish-based sauce.
Are you a good cook?
Yes. I went to university in the USA and learned to cook out of necessity. I cooked, mowed the lawn and walked the dog in lieu of rent. I spent my rent money on a Datsun 240Z.
What do you do on planes?
Read mail and take time to think strategically about things.
What company do you admire outside the auto business?
General Electric for its achievements in the areas of people development and nurturing business talent from within. The Gap/Banana Republic/Old Navy group for the way they have developed their retailing concept.
What businessperson do you most admire outside the auto business?
Jack Welch of GE.
How would you describe yourself to others?
Straightforward, determined, direct and someone who tells things like they are.
What would you change about yourself?
Maybe I should be more sensitive about how my sense of humor affects other people.
What is the next big thing in the auto business?
The Internet in distribution.
Where do you have your best ideas?
Jogging. The solution to a business issue that I've struggled with all day at the office suddenly becomes clear when you're in the open air.