Bram Zwagemaker (CV)
Born on the 13th of the 11th; you just can’t help thinking something must have become of him since 1946. He passed the good old HBS with outstanding results at the age of seventeen, but family circumstances forced him to give up his studies and get a job. The labor market was so overheated that he was able to go to the employment agency on the 31st of August and started working on the 1st of September at Dijker, de Boer & Vink, now known as Price Waterhouse Coopers. This was a well-considered decision to acquire accountancy skills – then again he was always one to make quick decisions.
He studied in what little spare time someone who was fanatical about sports could be expected to have with two training sessions a week and two baseball matches in the weekends.
Before he knew it, military service came along; the studying hadn’t really progressed that much. He had a very interesting period there. As a member of the executive committee (long hair, no hairnet) of the Vereniging voor Dienstplichtige Militairen (VvDM – Association of National Servicemen) he was excused from crawling through the mud and other senseless activities, but he did make contact with the Minister of Defence (Den Toom, does anyone remember him?), members of Parliament, the unions (former Prime Minister Wim Kok in his early days) and the media. He saw the association grow from 3,000 to 30,000 members in 18 months, and apart from many other achievements saw the pay rise from Dfl. 1.75 per day to Dfl. 175 per month, a pittance even in those days.
Back at Dijker he found that all those who had been exempt from national service had galloped ahead with their studies. In two years he overtook the first five. Subsequently he discovered that making green or red ticks was not as fulfilling to his life as he might had wished for himself, so he gave up studying audit principles and transferred to consultancy.
In 1975 he left Dijker and joined the management of a family business in Rotterdam; quite a special experience, trying as the only non-family member to steer a middle course between Grandma, Grandpa, the children and grandchildren, as well as the 400 employees. The family had earned a great deal of money from the reconstruction of the harbour, so a considerable part of his time was spent on capital management. After five years, Kempen & Co., one of the organizations the company was doing business with, asked him to join them as their financial director. At that time the firm was still very small (13 employees) and Belgian owned. In 1982 there was a management buyout; in 1983 a listing on the parallel market followed by a listing on the official market and the issue and exercise of his stock options.
Through the chairmanship of the supervisory board of Intercai, a firm of consulting engineers in the field of telecommunications, he came into contact with BSO. In 1988 he agreed to a request to transfer to BSO, which at the time was only active in the Netherlands. 1990 saw a great international leap forward with the take over of Philips Electronics IT departments and the creation of Origin.
Apart from his membership of the management board of BSO Beheer as financial man and the chairmanship of the pension fund, he spent the major part of his time on Origin’s operations in southern Europe (anywhere to the south of the Netherlands) and South America. He had a lot to do with Philips in all 27 countries, and when at the end of 1995 Philips gained absolute control over BSO/Origin it seemed that his time was up and he was beginning to think about living quietly on the proceeds of his BSO shares and doing nothing but keeping an eye on market prices.
But that’s just not Bram’s style.
Besides a few private ventures, he set up Het Goede Paard b.v., a venture capital company, jointly with Johan Vunderink (also ex-BSO). At the end of 1997 Het Goede Paard took a share in an internet service provider which was taking serious losses. Throughout 1998 he managed the company himself, and at the end of the year, by which time the company was restored to health, negotiations took place to sell it.
When Eckart Wintzen asked him whether he was available, he told him that he had no intention of spending the rest of his life doing these kinds of interim management jobs. Soon an agreement for a few days a week at Ex’tent was reached. Venture capital and asset management are in his genes.
The few days became almost five and that was the moment for both Bram and Eckart to get the real work done by Frank Monstrey. So far, and even after the internet hype, there has been a lot of fun and Bram, Eckart and Frank are hoping to keep that up.
Bram now has more time for his four children, one a school teacher and one -after finalizing hotel management- working for KPMG Auditors. The two youngsters are at home in Bilthoven. Bram spends the whole year buying books and as in the last 40 years he will be off on holiday with a bag full.
Apart from board appointments, almost exclusively relating to his own ventures or those of Ex’tent, he had an interesting voluntary sideline as member of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange’s private investors committee.