When Loek de Vries first joined the TenCate executive board in the mid 90s, he recognised untapped potential in one particular business area: high-end textiles. At the time, the company’s operations were predominantly in consumer textiles, but Loek envisioned that there was hidden value and potential in this alternative category. As soon as he was appointed President and CEO of TenCate in the summer of 2000, he got to work on streamlining the business’s operations to focus all of the company’s attention on this ‘treasure’, which he knew would lead to great success.
“We had a fix-it exit strategy for everything that was not, in my view, high-end textiles,” Loek explains. “So we sold plastic, rubber, and trading companies, and we sold land; and we freed up all of this money, which we then invested into the high-end textile business. It was our buy and build strategy.
“We invested in sustaining or disruptive technologies and we took over other companies with the same problem as TenCate—they had a ‘hidden treasure’ waiting to be discovered. TenCate acquired companies in the United States, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, and made sure that every one of them worked with the same kind of raw materials. This meant I was able to achieve the right critical mass, which in turn created buying power towards our suppliers and also helped to realise synergies between our subsidiaries. It was an intensive process but it’s very good to know that we have now achieved a great market position to be the biggest company of our kind in the world. TenCate has large market shares, we have grown worldwide, and we have always been at the heart of the value chain, which is the best position for managing the value chain.