Geir Lundestad, who served as director of the Nobel Institute for 25 years until he stepped down last year claims in a new book that Lars Heikensten, the new head of the Stockholm-based Nobel Foundation, tried to influence the choice of his successor as director.
If the Nobel Foundation were responsible for hiring the secretary, that would also have consequences for selecting the winners,” Lundestad writes in his book.
Under the terms of the 1895 will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, responsibility for awarding the Peace Prize was specifically given to a “a committee of five persons to be elected” by the Norwegian parliament.
The other five prizes, for Chemistry, Literature, Physics, Medicine and Economics, are awarded in the the Swedish capital Stockholm by Swedish institutions, while the Nobel peace prize ceremony is held in Oslo, and awarded be the Norwegian Nobel Institute.
The Nobel Foundation manages the funds originally bequeathed by Alfred Nobel, which in 2014 were worth 3.9 bn Swedish kroner ($475m)
Although the Swedish attempt to intervene in the choice of director, Lundestad warned that power was being centralised under Heikensten.
According to Lundestad, Heikensten is attempting to create a corporate structure which would compromise the independence of the committees that decide on the individual prizes.
The book also reveals that the Swedish Nobel Foundation wanted to sell the magnificent building that the Norwegian Nobel Institute resides in, as it was considered too expensive.
The sale of the building was stopped when Lundestad found an old document in the archives that made clear that although the Swedish foundation owns the building, it cannot be sold without the approval of the Norwegian Nobel Institute.
The proposed sale was intended to secure finances for the construction of a new building for the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm.