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Although many superyacht builders are owned by big corporations these days, some yards are still family-owned. In the Netherlands, this applies to a few household names like Koninklijke De Vries Scheepsbouw (working under the Feadship brand) and Hakvoort, among others.
However, in order to secure a family-owned future for these companies, it is important that the present generation at the helm starts planning for succession well on time. In this article, we take a look at how the De Vries and Hakvoort families go about succession planning.
Henk de Vries, CEO and shareholder of Koninklijke De Vries Scheepsbouw, represents the fourth generation of De Vries family members running the business. This is quite exceptional, as Forbes has reported that only 3% of family businesses survive into the fourth generation. So how did the De Vries family achieve this? “If you embrace your next generation quite early, not lure them in but instead expose them to the business, it is beneficial," said de Vries previously to SuperYacht Times. This also has benefits for the current generation of family members. “You can take advantage of the fact you are different generations and look at things through their eyes.” As an example of this approach, the yard tries to engage young family members aged 15-30 by inviting them to join a NextGen programme where they discuss developments in the family company with a professor specialised in family businesses.
De Vries put much of the succession planning onto paper when the first official shareholders’ agreement was drawn up in 1992. This agreement has been updated four times since then to reflect further insights gained. The shareholder agreement also contains qualifications which family members need to meet in order to be considered for a senior executive position in the company.
Despite the formal succession planning described here, the most important thing to do according to Henk de Vries is still: discuss succession planning openly among family members. Put all issues on the table and do not make assumptions!
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