Yard Ownership: Succeeding in succession
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
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!
(Photo credit: Tom van Oossanen)
Klaas and Albert Jr Hakvoort
Like many superyacht builders, Klaas Hakvoort is a very down-to-earth person. “Despite its glamour, the yacht building business is a risky and competitive business”, he said in a previous interview with SuperYacht Times. Which is why together with his brother Albert Jr, they made a very pragmatic and debt-free deal when they wanted to take over the yard from their father, Klaas Hakvoort Sr. Their family loaned them the money to take over his shares, which they then bought in two instalments: first 49% and once the loan for that part was repaid, they borrowed money once more to acquire the remaining 51%. Klaas Hakvoort Sr finally retired in 2014. The whole process took 11 years, but the take-over never had any financial impact on the company and allowed Klaas Sr to continue to control the company while his children were gradually taking it over from him.
Klaas and Albert Jr are now looking towards the next generation. Their children are still quite young, but the eldest son Albert (17) is already convinced that he wants to work at the yard. He has already spent his holiday weeks working at the yard, which is exactly what Klaas and Albert like to see. “Even if one or all of our three children want to continue the business, they also have to be capable and truly passionate about it. Otherwise, they will certainly fail. Even though Hakvoort is a small shipyard, we still have the responsibility for approximately 100 employees and that is something we take very seriously."
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