Although John Fredriksen has richly earned his reputation as shipping's greatest corporate raider, he has also been on what is in effect a 20-year losing streak in the crude tanker market.

Fredriksen and his public tanker company, Frontline, are 0-for-4 in consolidation over that period, having swung and missed at US-listed owners Overseas Shipholding Group (OSG), DHT Holdings, General Maritime and its successor, Gener8 Maritime.

So if Fredriksen does want to combine with Belgian tanker giant Euronav and is able to make a deal stick, it will be a return to magic the tanker king has not been able to summon since around 2001.

Some observers point out that while he did not come away with any of the four tanker owners he pursued, for the most part he got richer for the investments, with the notable exception of OSG.

And it is quite possible that the world's most famous shipowner might have something similar in mind with Euronav: the stock already has risen 37% since the first investment by a Fredriksen private entity on 16 August.

"It could just be that Euronav was the cheapest tanker stock, with a great balance sheet and great management team," said veteran Evercore ISI analyst Jonathan Chappell, who has watched various Fredriksen approaches through the years.

"Who knows what his end game is here? While none of those other approaches went through, he did make money on most of them. It's almost a win-win proposition, a self-fulfilling prophecy. He's viewed as someone who knows the sector better than anyone and that carries weight with investors."

Fredriksen earned his deal-making fame through a batch of acquisitions and takeover battles between 1996 and 2001.

The first of these featured the purchase of what would become his flagship public tanker company, Frontline, which had been listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange.

Former Overseas Shipholding Group chief executive Morten Arntzen learned in dramatic fashion that John Fredriksen was after his company in 2008. Photo: Chris Preovolos

Over the next five years, Fredriksen would acquire London & Overseas Freighters, ICB Shipping and the Golden Ocean Group, creating the world's largest fleet of crude tankers under the Frontline banner.

By December 2004, he developed an appetite for New York-listed General Maritime, a crude tanker owner founded by former investment banker Peter Georgiopoulos. Frontline purchased a 7% stake initially.

Though Georgiopoulos was a huge admirer of the Norwegian, his company rejected a $39-per-share cash offer in 2005 and introduced a poison pill into its bylaws, blocking further share purchases.

By the summer of 2006, Frontline sold its entire 12% stake, booking a $9.7m profit after collecting $13.3m in dividends.

Fredriksen was back at it in March 2008 as he was honoured with the Connecticut Maritime Association's annual commodore award.

Seated on the banquet dais in Stamford beside outgoing commodore Morten Arntzen, who was about to introduce him, Fredriksen leaned over and whispered that he had just bought 10% of Arntzen's OSG.

Drama aside, it did not prove to be Fredriksen's greatest venture.

The pursuit slogged on for three years before Frontline withdrew in 2011, logging losses estimated by TradeWinds at more than $20m.

Frontline publicly expressed its disappointment in OSG, which it said "never opened for real discussions about consolidation".

But at the same time, sources indicated that Frontline never made a written acquisition proposal.

The Fredriksen company also appeared to underestimate the problems created by OSG's status as a "US citizen" company with a US-flag fleet, which served as an effective poison pill against acquiring a controlling stake.

Frontline was forced to undertake its own corporate restructuring in a dire tanker market, completed in 2012.

Saddled with an ageing fleet, it began looking again for newer tonnage through consolidation rather than ordering newbuildings.

Frontline began acquiring shares in New York-listed DHT Holdings in 2016 at a time when DHT's shares sagged on asset impairments amid weak results.

Fredriksen revealed a 16.7% holding in January 2017. DHT invoked a poison pill and its board rejected Frontline's final all-shares offer in March.

DHT quickly moved to buy the BW Group's 11-unit VLCC fleet, spurring Frontline to file a messy and ultimately futile lawsuit against the deal. Court testimony indicated that Frontline and DHT had come within $30m of agreeing to a deal.

Frontline pivoted to a pursuit of Gener8 Maritime, the New York-listed successor to General Maritime. But Georgiopoulos and his team remained uninterested in selling at a cut-rate valuation, and talks were over by June 2017.