Trial and error, that’s what entrepreneurship is all about, according to billionaire Willem Blijdorp. In a career like his, which has lasted more than forty years, you cannot escape decisions that later turn out to be ‘not so successful’, said Blijdorp last year when he was inaugurated as an honorary doctor at Nyenrode Business University. “Then you can go cry in a corner, or think and pick up the thread again. […] Even if you lose a few matches, you can still become champion.” Blijdorp apparently saw such an opportunity to pick up the thread again this summer at B&S Group, the billion-dollar company that he founded more than twenty years ago with a partner. He brought that wholesaler in duty-free goods to the stock exchange in the spring of 2018 for a price of 14.50 euros per share. The listing has so far not been a great success: B&S has since traded mainly below the introductory price. More than four and a half years after the IPO, the share fluctuates around the lowest levels ever: around the limit of 5 euros. A significant loss for Blijdorp, which still owns slightly more than two-thirds of the shares in B&S with its investment vehicle Sarabel. But also an opportunity to get the company completely back into your own hands, relatively cheaply. This Monday it turned out that Blijdorp had made an attempt to do so last summer. Via Sarabel, the entrepreneur made a “non-binding indicative offer” for all outstanding shares, B&S Group said in a statement. That proposal was rejected by the company’s supervisory board, after which Blijdorp withdrew its offer at the end of August. B&S did not state what price the major shareholder was willing to pay for the shares. Blijdorp’s offer has been rejected by the supervisory board of B&S That rejection has put Blijdorp on a collision course with the commissioners. Halfway through last month, B&S (1.9 billion euros in turnover, 2,000 employees) received a request from the billionaire to organize a shareholders’ meeting. There he wanted to have a vote on the resignation of two members of the supervisory board: Kitty Koelemeijer and Jan Arie van Barneveld. The latter is the chairman of the body. The fact that Blijdorp wanted to have the two supervisory directors replaced has to do with a “difference in opinion” about the offer, according to the statement. This Sunday he made a new request: he now only wants to vote on the position of council chairman Van Barneveld, no longer about Koelemeijer. In the statement, both say they “strongly disagree” with Blijdorp’s proposal. Son of a fruit grower The 69-year-old Blijdorp is the prototype of a self-made man . He was born in the Noordoostpolder, the son of a fruit grower, and attended the Hotel School in Maastricht. He then went to work for a shipping company that organized Butterfahrten from Eemshaven in Groningen: boat trips outside the territorial waters where passengers could buy cigarettes, perfumes and drinks tax-free. Blijdorp took over the business together with a partner. The boat trips that have now been abolished made both entrepreneurs very wealthy: at the height of their wealth, Quote business magazine estimated the assets of Blijdorp at 610 million euros – good for 49th place in the ranking of the richest Dutch people. Also read this profile that NRC made: The two faces of Willem Blijdorp Blijdorp had already retired at the time of the IPO of B&S, which supplies airports, army bases and cruise ships. In 2004 he exchanged the management board for the supervisory board. Despite this, he was still closely involved with the company, he told Het Financieele Dagblad at the time. “I still work six or seven days a week. Full days.” He is still a member of the supervisory board, of which he is vice-chairman. Koelemeijer and Van Barneveld are the only external members of that body. Koelemeijer is professor of marketing at Nyenrode, and was so involved in the inauguration of Blijdorp as an honorary doctor last year. She is also a member of the supervisory board of telecom company KPN and employment agency Brunel, among others. Van Barneveld also holds a supervisory board position at Brunel, where he was CEO until 2018. Since last year, the fourth place in the supervisory body has been filled by Leendert Blijdorp, one of the founders’ sons. He is also chairman of the working group that has to review B&S transactions with other companies. At the shareholders’ meeting this spring, this was reason for the investor association VEB to ask critical questions about the wholesaler’s management structure. The investor club wondered, among other things, how a son can critically look at the deals that B&S concludes with other companies that are also owned by his father. B&S said it saw no objections to this. According to the defence, the board is responsible for transactions, not the supervisory directors. In addition, an accountant also tests everything. The VEB also expressed concern about a series of allegations made against Blijdorp by former business partners. For example, in a profile about the businessman, NRC recorded stories of former associates who felt ‘business murdered’ by Blijdorp, or accused him of ‘pure theft’. Shortly afterwards , the FD revealed that the court in Amsterdam was investigating whether it should start a criminal case according to Blijdorp’s method. According to a former business partner, the businessman is guilty of fraud and forgery regarding an investment in Iranian marble quarries. The court later decided not to conduct such an investigation because there were “insufficient leads”. The allegations were no reason for B&S to break with Blijdorp, the wholesaler informed the investor association when asked. It involved conflicts with third parties, which the company had nothing to do with. Moreover, with his ‘years of experience and knowledge’, Blijdorp was ‘of great added value’ for B&S according to both the board and the supervisory board. A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of October 4, 2022