09.06.10 10:42 PM ET
Elin's New Life in Sweden
The divorce is final. An estimated $100 million settlement is coming her way. She's enrolled in a college psychology program, and is at work renovating a country home in Sweden.
Elin Maria Pernilla Nordegren is taking the first tentative steps into her new life, leaving behind her tumultuous, scandal-plagued marriage to golf legend Tiger Woods.
Should she decide to move back to Sweden, as some have speculated, she would be welcomed by a tight-knit group of friends and family, say people in Sweden, including her politician mother, a governor who lives in a 16th-century castle, and her father, a famous talk-show host.
The former model is renovating a country house that she bought last year on Fåglarö—or Bird Island—a secluded, upscale island in northern Sweden. This, they say, will be the luxurious private escape for a woman who, in her home country, is known for keeping a low profile and avoiding the press, sometimes using her twin sister to fool the paparazzi.
The $2.3 million estate, which formerly belonged to a professional soccer player, includes a main house with an enormous terrace, a big playroom for the children, three small guesthouses, two outdoor storehouses, a private beach, a mini-harbor and a sauna, according to reports.
But perhaps the most attractive feature of the property for Elin is its privacy. Paparazzi will not find it easy to visit, since the only way to reach the island is by ferry, a trip that takes two hours from Stockholm. In the winter, when the waters freeze, the island is only accessible by hydrocopter, a type of amphibious aircraft-propelled catamaran.
Gallery: Elin Nordegren
The island is so remote that food can only be gotten at a supermarket on the mainland and indoor plumbing can only be used during May to October.
Should she tire of the seclusion (or the lack of indoor plumbing), Elin can visit Stockholm, where she owns a $2 million penthouse apartment with an ultra-modern kitchen and a rooftop with an excellent view over the Swedish capital. Here Elin won’t have to worry about nosy neighbors—residents in this upscale part of Stockholm are notorious for being more than a little frosty.
During previous visits to Stockholm, Elin has kept to herself, not partying but rather spending time with her family or going for a jog in a city park, says Johnny Axelsson, reporter for the Swedish celebrity Magazine Se & Hör, who has been following the Elin and Tiger saga. “Wild parties and late nights are not her style,” he says, describing Elin as “mature.”
Elin also has the option of staying with her mother, who resides in a castle, built by the Swedish King Johan the Third and said to be haunted by a man who was executed and walled in the castle basement hundreds of years ago, as well as by a maid who set fire to the castle in the 1700s.
“The castle is old and you can hear strange sounds at night. If it’s dark outside, your fantasies can take off,” Elin’s mother, Barbro Holmberg told a local paper. “My daughters think it’s scary to stay overnight.”
Still, Elin visited in spring and was spotted in her mother’s town of Gävle, according to Roger Wallenius, a reporter at local newspaper Gefle Dagblad. “She was taking a walk with her mother at Hemlingby, a beautiful recreation spot,” he says.
Wherever Elin chooses to spend her time in Sweden, it’s clear she can count on support from friends and family.
“She seems to have a bunch of true, loyal friends,” says Axelsson. Her childhood friends, he adds, “have kept their mouth shut during the whole scandal.”
Axelsson also explains how Elin’s twin sister, Josefin Lönnborg, has helped her sister in her quest for privacy. Lönnborg, who works as a lawyer in London, has on several occasions posed as Elin, acting as a decoy to throw off the paparazzi.
“Wild parties and late nights are not her style.”
“The sisters have a very good relationship,” says Axelsson. “They’re great friends and always there for each other.”
The twin sisters grew up as children of privilege. Their mother is a Social Democratic politician and a former minister, who is now the governor of Gävleborg County. (The castle is her official residence.) Their father, Thomas Nordegren, is a storied journalist, who the KGB reportedly once tried to recruit when he was stationed overseas.
After the Tiger scandal broke, producers from the Today show, as well as Larry King Live, approached Nordegren to talk about Tiger and the divorce but he declined.
“I’ve chosen not to comment on my children’s private lives,” he told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. “I’ll never take advantage of my daughter in this way.”
Still, Nordegren won’t rule out having his former son-in-law as a guest on his own talk show—that is, if his daughter will let him.
“It depends on what Elin would say,” he told the paper.
Elin, for her part, has mostly remained quiet throughout her ordeal, granting just one interview in the same week that her divorce from Tiger Woods became final.
“I have confidence in my beliefs, my decisions, and myself,” she told People magazine, in an article that hit newsstands just days after the divorce was granted in Panama City, Florida.
In court documents, the marriage was described as " irretrievably broken," but the size of the settlement was not disclosed.
While Tiger Woods continues a less-than-stellar performance on the golf course, Elin has enrolled to study psychology at Rollins College. She is reportedly considering spending some of that money to open up a mental-health clinic in Florida to help broken families and, in particular, children—a decision described by Britta Svensson, a well-known columnist at the Swedish newspaper Expressen, as “a great move.”
Should she come back to Sweden, she would get a hero’s welcome.
“Elin’s brand is better than ever,” says Svensson. “She has gone from being a pretty, anonymous wife… to be seen as a graceful, intelligent young woman.”
Tiger’s brand, on the other hand, has taken a beating, notes Svensson.
“He doesn’t even seem able to play golf anymore.”
Katarina Andersson is a New York-based freelance reporter for Swedish Broadcasting. She previously hosted a popular radio talk show in Sweden and covered politics, economy, and arts for numerous Scandinavian media outlets in the U.S. She lives in Brooklyn with her son.