JOHN BRENDMOE Marbella investor and philanthropist

There is no limit to what one can do with a paintbrush – just ask John Brendmoe. From the humble beginning, working in his father’s painting workshop as a boy, he managed to establish one of Scandinavia’s biggest painting companies. Fourteen years ago, the Brendmoe family came to Marbella, where they so far have renovated and designed 60 luxurious designer homes. Now the Antima Group has bought an entire block on no less than the Golden Mile, where Marbella’s first exclusive shopping village opens in July. I arranged to meet John at the construction site to learn more about this Norwegian investor and philanthropist.

One simply cannot miss Forum, located on Costa del Sol’s most exclusive street, near the world-renowned Marbella Club. A better location would be hard to find, but then it isn’t just any property man behind the project. Though his investments are in the millions, John keeps his feet steadily on the ground. He eagerly shares the building plans with me as we climb into a container which is converted into a communal office. Not all that have achieved this type of success would accept such modest conditions, but the former paint master is always willing to roll up his sleeves and insists to be one of the team.


Founded 1929

One of the guys. Photo by Pedro Jaen

The story began back in Norway in the 1920s when John’s grandfather, Anton, started the Brendmoe family firm with a bucket of paint and a brush and got his first job painting furniture for a traditional Norwegian furniture manufacturer. The family business went from father to son and eventually, many years later, it was the grandson’s turn.

– I was never a straight-A student, so I started painting with my father quite early. At least then I could see the results. After high school, I became – of all things – a fashion model for Hugo Boss and travelled to Hong Kong, Paris and everywhere, but it wasn’t easy for a blue-collar painter to be a model in the fashion world 40 years ago! My father died suddenly when I was 34, and I had to take over the family business. That wasn’t all that easy either, but thankfully, my modelling days had taught me how to sell myself. The more trust and assignments I got, the faster we grew, and finally, we were 500 painters. Nobody understood how I managed to run such a big business, but I believe the reason for our success was that I sat outside on the paint buckets with the ‘boys’ instead of sitting in the office.

When the firm was at its most prosperous, John sold it and travelled around the world with his family. And when the business went bankrupt, a few years later, he bought it back and built it up once more before selling it for a second time – always with great profit.


Unique family business

John and Sander Brendmoe. Photo by Pedro Jaen


The firm, which changed names several times, became Antima Group 14 years ago. The name is composed of the two first letters of the middle names of the children because today the entire family is involved. John is the founder and chairman of the entire corporation.  Hanne, his wife, and right hand of 40 years keeps order when it comes to the logistics of delivering a house with 10,000 different items from 70 different countries.

The oldest son, Sander (31), was one of Scandinavia’s top tennis players when he was 17 and started tennis college in the States. But when he realised that he wouldn’t reach the very top, he wanted to come back home and work with the family. But John said no.

– The last thing I needed to do, was to feed him with a silver spoon. I insisted that he complete his studies and prove that he could earn money. He did, and when he came back, we started more seriously. Sander has now taken over as general manager, as he is great with the employees, calm, organised and he works more systematically than me. I am lucky to have such a partner, so I still can be out in the field building houses.

Together with a team of other interior architects, the daughter Synne (28) runs the firm’s furniture and interior shop, Sandon. She is also the Creative Director for the Antima Group and President for the Antima Charity Foundation, while Sivert (25), the youngest in the family, is a professional musician in LA and runs Antima’s music division.

However, the firm’s success would likely never have happened without John and his incredible drive.

– To create projects is something that I have had in me since I was very young, and the drive is still there. I am driven by unstoppable energy and make extremely strict demands on myself. When projects are done, somebody else must take over, because numbers and books and such are not me. I like to create something beautiful, and that is exactly what we do with our houses. When we started, I thought it was extremely costly to buy a house for 1 million euros, but today our houses sell for over 10 million. It seems that the world’s most wealthy all want a piece of Marbella.


Chose Marbella


John in Nuevo Andalucía, Marbella. Photo by Pedro Jaen


When they arrived in Spain, John planned to retire and play golf, but he soon tired of that.

-It took about two weeks before I decided that I had to do something more. We started by renovating one house at a time, but eventually, we merged the firm from 1929 and now the fourth generation helps run it.

From a business perspective, their timing was good, because Marbella was not in its best days.

– To be honest, it wasn’t very popular to say that one lived in Marbella 14 years ago. There was a lot of criminality, but I have to say that the tides have turned. The city has been cleaned up and the police are doing a fantastic job. I regularly get stopped in my fancy car by the police with spike strips and machine guns, and I always thank them for their service as without safety, we will neither have tourists nor investors. Marbella has become a remarkable place where international businesses establish offices and people build their second or third homes.

The investor encourages young entrepreneurs who wish to try Costa del Sol, but he also warns about its dangers.

-Don’t listen too much to know-it-alls, just do it! Come and try it for yourself. Marbella is fantastic, but it can also be one’s downfall. I have seen plenty of families that suddenly have become very wealthy and have moved here, but it frequently ends in disaster with divorce and substance abuse. I often say that if one uses the town as one ought to, life becomes a true gift with all Marbella has to offer – beautiful weather, nature, mountains, and the ocean.



Sander, John, Hanne, Synne and Sivert Brendmoe. Foto © private


The family business consists of several branches and includes Antima Home, Sandon Furniture, Forum, as well as Antima Charity and Antima Wealth Management. Antima Home is behind many exclusive villas in the several million-euro range and most of their customers are Scandinavian.

-We offer all services in-house. When we started selling houses, we bought furniture and decorated them professionally, to make them turnkey. The customers appreciated this, and we decided to make our own furniture collection. Sandon does everything from renovation to creating interiors. Everything – furniture, shelves, and kitchens – is custom-made. The last branch is Antima Maintenance which offers everything from chefs to chauffeurs and gardeners to maintain the homes of some of Europe’s most wealthy people.

Antima’s building projects follow sustainable legislation. The homes reuse water from showers, dishwashers, and floor heating to water the gardens. Soon, they hope that all their projects can be close to energy-neutral with Tesla’s new solar panel system. The Antima Group offers all services for private homes and now also commercial properties and the team includes lawyers, architects, interior designers, engineers, craftsmen, and salespeople.

– I believe our employees represent all continents, and 82 % are women. It was the same when I was a painting contractor because the female painters left the guys behind. So, we followed their lead. Whatever they managed to produce, the male painters had to handle! Women are fabulous to work with. They are proactive, solution-oriented, and often better with clients because they see things from a slightly different perspective than us men. Of course, we have very capable men on the team, as well, but it isn’t easy to work for such a strongly knitted family firm. That is why it is important to continue developing the company management with new, young, and clever people.

Another separate branch of the Antima Group is Antima Wealth Management and John does not hesitate to offer advice for those who wish to invest big on the Costa del Sol.

– I believe there are still many opportunities in Marbella for a long time to come, but it is important to think about the actual needs of the community. Everybody does not have to develop and build luxury housing. The infrastructure of Marbella is about to collapse. We lack schools, parking lots, hospitals etc, so there is still great development- and investment opportunities on the Costa del Sol. As an example, I believe that it would be quite profitable to establish exclusive retirement- and sports facilities for the elderly. That’s an investment I would do in a heartbeat.


Brendmoe and philanthropy

John at home. Photo by Pedro Jaen

John insists that it is important to give back when one is successful. This is something he and his family do through their non-profit work with the Antima Charity Foundation which contributes to several local and international NGOs.

-We support organizations which offer help to victims of human trafficking and child prostitution in Africa and Asia. Recently we donated one million mosquito nets to Burma, and we are also involved in animal welfare. At the same time, many people in the local community need a hand. We help disadvantaged people and support the fire department with funds when there are forest fires in the area. When a fireman died in the fire in Sierra Bermeja, we made a larger contribution to help the widow and her children through a difficult time.

Philanthropy can be many things, and John also shows his solidarity to his employees, something they particularly became aware of during the pandemic.

-As a responsible business, we have Antima Equity which consists of long-term investments as a buffer for harder times. During Covid, most Spanish employees didn’t get a cent from their employers, but we couldn’t allow that to happen. We have saved up equity capital due to our employees, so we continued with full salaries. We also got compensation to drive out food boxes to our workforce. Many of them were isolated, so we met on FaceTime every morning to talk about the future. We gained a lot of trust and loyalty at the time, so today we have practically zero per cent sickness absence. It is vital for us that our people are happy at work, as the work environment is everything. Our wish is to be the best family business for people with families and to particularly safeguard these values.


Marbella shopping village

John with some of the Antima team in front of Forum. Photo by Pedro Jaen


The Antima Groups Forum will become Marbella’s new exclusive shopping village.

-The lot, which used to be a TV station called Forum, had been sitting empty since 1986. No one could buy it, because the entire block was owned by three families who quarrelled all the time. The buildings just sat and decayed until I got here. We took a risk and bought one part at a time. It wasn’t an inexpensive purchase, but it is a unique pearl on the Golden Mile, so we couldn’t let this opportunity go.

The word forum refers to the exchange of ideas and viewpoints, so they wanted to keep the name. Forum, which is scheduled to open in July 2024, will have 200 employees, ample parking, and everything one needs for daily purchases.

– We want Forum to be an oasis where people can Come in & hang out. You can go to the hairdressers, get your nails fixed, and buy meat, fish, organic fruit and vegetables, wines, and flowers. In addition, we will have a deli and a traditional Scandinavian bakery, three restaurants with a seating capacity of 800 diners, a roof terrace with ancient olive trees, our 1000 m2 showroom furniture store, as well as Antima’s own offices which will be Spain’s most impressive.


Looking forward


John with his mother, Lilleba. Photo © private


Today John describes himself as a «very lucky senior». He feels privileged to be able to work with so many incredibly clever young professionals. At the same time, he does everything in his power to facilitate a sustainable business that can grow into the fifth generation of Brendmoes. But what does success mean for John himself?

Success is to have the family around me. Success is to enjoy good health. I only have a few close friends. To be successful, which I consider myself, means that I can buy exactly the food I want and travel wherever I like, which is a privilege with isn’t allowed to everyone.

Since family and health are Alpha and Omega for John, it is therefore perhaps not such a surprise that John has brought his 86-year-old mother from Norway to live with them. When she arrived, she barely walked, but now is coming back to life and mother and son walk together on the seafront every evening. A project that John therefore still wishes to do, is to create a fantastic home for elderly northerners and other foreigners in Marbella.

-There are lots of pensioners who eventually won’t be able to pay to live in Norway, due to the lack of municipal homes. At the same time, many elderly are living in large debt-free houses. They ought to sell their homes and buy a warranty so that they can live the rest of their days in a lovely property with supervision, exercise possibilities and quality living from us. Most children and grandchildren don’t have the time or resources to take care of the elderly family members themselves, but it is always a good investment to invest in one’s family.

The interview is over. We put on helmets and safety vests to take a photo of the former painter in front of his latest building project. John instinctively opens his arms and smiles.

-If you meet the world with an open mind, you will get much more openness in return. I always approach life this way. I hug everybody and rarely get into trouble. I believe that if you are honest and kind, the world will mostly smile back at you.


John in front of FORUM under construction. Photo © Karethe Linaae


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