Book Prince Bernhard junior
A reckless business prince with a poorly developed ethical compass
Prins Bernhard jr., son of Princess Margriet and mr. Pieter van Vollenhoven, is repeatedly 'reckless' in the pursuit of his business ambitions. This is the conclusion of journalists Michiel Couzy and Maarten van Dun in their book Zakenprins.
Eric Brassem31 March 2021, 01:00
According to the authors, 'the prince seeks out borders and does business at home and abroad with partners whose reputation has demonstrably been contaminated'. For their book Business Prince, they investigated well-known and lesser-known business enterprises of the prince, in the Netherlands and Serbia. The authors give striking examples of Bernhard's business instinct and good ideas, but his 'ethical compass' is 'insufficiently strong', they believe on the basis of deepened pieces and conversations with people who know him. Bernhard himself did not want to cooperate.
The authors explain his ambitions from his efforts to put an end to the idea that he owes everything to his royal origins – which, according to the authors, he does throw into the fray when it suits him. Asked about the relevance of a book about a prince who has not been a potential heir to the throne since 2013, author Michiel Couzysays: "He is still a member of the royal family. His actions could harm the royal family and fuel discussions about the role of the royal family. This became clear during the publicity that erupted in 2017 about Bernhard's house ownership in Amsterdam."
Couzy and Van Dun wrote for Het Parool about Bernhard's real estate company, and about the effect of large homeowners on the Amsterdam housing market. It also turned out that Bernhard violated the rental rules. Other media called him 'pawnshop prince'; the PvdA proposed a 'prince Bernhard tax'.
Less well known is the business adventure that the investment company of Bernhard and his business partners Menno de Jong and Paul Mol entered into with the media company of Hans Pérukel. In the mid-nineties he gained the reputation of Dutch 'founder of internet pornography' by putting shows of sex club Casa Rosso online.
In 2012, Bernhard and his companions bought 30 percent of the shares of a media company of Pérukel,which mainly revolved around radio station Wild FM. Shortly before the bankruptcy of that company, Pérukel transferred the most valuable part to a new company. Bernhard and his partners have also become shareholders of this, according to the book. 'Paulianeus', punishable, the receiver assesses the shifting of business units.
The authors also found Bernhard's 'infected' business partners in Serbia. In Novi Sad, known at the beginning of this century as a money laundering centre for drug criminals, the prince and his partners and their real estate company got into a construction project, which turned into a fiasco. According to the authors, they fell victim to a shady Serbian bank manager and project developer with whom they teamed up.
A real estate project in Belgrade ended better for Bernhard and his partner De Jong. But there too, according to Couzy and Van Dun, they did business with the 'infected' then mayor and city planner.
At the end of 2018 Bernhard will leave the publicity around the circuit of Zandvoort he purchased. After all the commotion about his real estate, he understands that this is more convenient, but he does not understand the commotion himself, the authors write, because 'he has done nothing but so many other businessmen, hasn't he?'.
The career of 'business prince' Bernhard is full of moral minefields
The housing affair haunts Bernhard van Oranje to this day. He violated the rules for rental in Amsterdam. This fits into a pattern, as can be seen from the book Business Prince by journalists Michiel Couzy (Het Parool) and Maarten van Dun.
Michiel Couzy and Maarten van Dun30 March 2021, 12:00
They are on a prince hunt. Bernhard is convinced of this when he ends up in a media storm at the end of 2017 because of his Amsterdam real estate property and violating the rental rules. Posters with his image appear all over the city, comedian Youp van 't Hek calls him 'mafia real estate prince.' Millions of people see how he is ridiculed in the popular TV show Sunday with Lubach. He is called out on the street. Bernhard doesn't understand the fuss. He doesn't do anything other than so many other real estate investors, right? "They're out for me, they want to destroy me," he tells confidants. "Just because I'm a prince."
In 2021, more than three years later, the storm still hasn't subsided. If, just before this month's parliamentary elections, the PvdA releases the plan for a 'Prince Bernhard tax', in which investors have to pay more tax, that will immediately grow into national news. The combination of the prince and real estate still guarantees a stir to this day.
The book Business Prince, which will be published on Thursday, highlights the business career of Prince Bernhard of Orange, son of Princess Margriet and Pieter van Vollenhoven. For the book, about a hundred sources were spoken at home and abroad about Bernhard, from business partners to former employees, politicians and acquaintances. Research was done in all kinds of archives, at the Chamber of Commerce and the Land Registry and in thousands of pages of government documents that were obtained thanks to appeal to the Freedom of Information Act. The book contains, among other things, a reconstruction of the house affair that got out of hand and how it fits into a career full of moral minefields.
At the end of 2017, the fuss erupted about his home ownership when Het Parool publishes a list of private home investors with more than a hundred addresses in Amsterdam. The reason is the growing influence that investors exert on the housing market. One of the names on the list is that of His Highness Bernhard Lucas Emmanuel Prince of Orange-Nassau, Van Vollenhoven, as he is mentioned in the Land Registry as the 'rightful owner' of 102 addresses in the city (there are now 96). He owns them with three partners: Coen Groeneveld, Paul Mol and Menno de Jong. In addition, through real estate company Pinnacle, in which he is involved, he has even more addresses: at that time 590 in the Netherlands, of which 349 in Amsterdam.
The initial surprise at this extensive real estate property turns into outrage when it turns out that the rental of his properties does not go according to the rules. Het Parool describes how sometimes five or six tenants live together in the houses of Bernhard and his business partners, who do not have a permit for this. Municipal enforcers confirm this. Some tenants have to live with their parents on paper and therefore have hardly any rights. How can someone from royal blood break the rules so badly and treat his tenants so badly?
After several reminders, the municipality sends an order subject to penalty payments. If the property owners continue to break the rules, they will have to pay 50,000 euros. Only after this ultimate pressure do the four property owners arrange a permit.
This affair contains various elements that ensure that Bernhard grows into, as he calls it, 'mascot in the housing market discussion.' The first statement is a political one. In 2017, various parties in the Amsterdam city council are worried about the role that investors play in the overheated housing market, but the subject does not come to life. Because of the publications, the problem suddenly gets a face. And what a one: a prince helps ensure that less fortunate Amsterdammers have to pay the main price for housing. Progressive Amsterdam jumps on top of it. 'Protect Amsterdam from wealthy fathers who buy up the city,' writes Marjolein Moorman, at the time still chairman of the PvdA party, in Het Parool. The city council even organizes a hearing on the role of investors in the city, for which they invite the prince.
Bernhard is no longer in the line of succession to the throne, but still belongs to the royal family. His origins matter in this affair. 'Prince Bernhard junior will undoubtedly work hard, but you would expect more solidarity from someone in such a privileged position,' moorman writes. The Dutch can appreciate that Bernhard earns his own living and leads a fairly normal family life in Amsterdam, as long as he colours within the lines. And there's the rub.
From his first company, founded during his student days in Groningen, it appears that he considers rules to be flexible. His courier company Ritzen Koeriers, which uses students with a public transport annual card to transport parcels by train, pays too little tax on wages that have been paid out. He narrowly avoids a criminal case for fraud with a settlement. That settlement makes it to the NOS Journaal, so that the press conference, a few days later about the engagement of Bernhard and Annette Sekrève, is mainly about this case. This kind of publicity damages the reputation of the royal family and therefore leads to dissperformment among his aunt, then Queen Beatrix.
Dubious business partner
In 2012 things go wrong when Bernhard invests in a company that owns radio station Wild FM. That goes bankrupt. The trustee later finds that the business stinks, according to various bankruptcy reports. Valuable business units have been diverted in a prohibited way, from which Bernhard and his companions benefit. The receiver submits a claim, also with Bernhard's investment company. It eventually comes to a settlement.
The stakes outside the Netherlands are also high. Shortly before the financial crisis, Bernhard entered into extremely risky project development in the Balkans. Serbia is still focusing on it after the devastating civil war and numerous experts warn of the widespread corruption, which makes doing business difficult. Bernhard enters into projects with controversial business partners there, according to research in numerous Serbian documents, such as bankruptcy reports, judgments, real estate deeds and the register of the Chamber of Commerce.
A key Serbian business partner of the prince is later the subject of police investigations into tax evasion and corruption. He is arrested after a chase, but later they get into a new project together: the construction of a residential area in Belgrade. Bernhard and his regular business partners finance the whole thing, benefiting from the excellent contacts that their local partners maintain with the mayor and the city architect of Belgrade, who have been linked to corruption in the Serbian press for years.
Another factor in the relentless fuss about the housing affair is bernhard's own actions. He doesn't understand the fuss. The management of his real estate is outsourced to a professional party, with the assignment to rent it out according to the rules, so what does he have to do with this? Bernhard's media advisers take the fuss very seriously and suggest that he should do something to boost his image. Is it an idea that he says goodbye to his real estate and instead sets up a social or green fund? This would shed a very different light on the prince. That is not an option, says Bernhard resolutely. The houses form his pension, because he does not receive a state allowance. He has just as decidedly rejects the suggestion to renounc his princely title and thus take away the attention for his origins. His loyalty to the family is too great for that, although King Willem-Alexander is 'not amused' about all the publicity.
When Bernhard receives the invitation to the hearing of the Amsterdam city council, his spokesman Charles Huijskens insists on writing a neat letter of thanks: a prince cannot afford an arrogant attitude towards elected representatives. Because Bernhard does not give a mess, Huijskens decides to write the letter himself. He is even willing to buy stamp and envelope.
But when Huijskens submits the letter to Bernhard, he informs him that he has already sent a short e-mail to the council clerk: he does not consider himself to be an expert and thanks. Huijskens realizes that this is a huge pr blunder. Bernhard's rejection feeds the interest of the press. That evening, PvdA group chairman Moorman is allowed to tell on national television what she thinks of bernhard' s knowledgeable, despite his 102 addresses in the city. When he is asked by Het Parool about the order for incremental penalty payments from the municipality, he says he does not know it, because he does not open his post himself.
As is often the case, Bernhard is especially outraged by the fuss. He sees himself as a businessman, who is separate from his origins. The fact that the Van Oranjes have an exemplary role does not play a major role for him. He deliberately chooses the precarious position of business prince.
Read the book: Business Prince: The Hunt for Success of Bernard of Orange.
Bernhard and his business partners, despite repeated requests, did not cooperate with the book, which serves as the basis for this article. They also did not respond to questions and did not use adversarial response. Also the request for a response to this article, Bernhard has ignored
Prince Bernhard Jr. became an entrepreneur at a young age and
develops into a business centipede. When he got the
violates rules, he grows into the national symbol of the
overstretched real estate market. With bringing in
of formula 1, Bernhard jr. delivers his ultimate performance,
which confirms its unique position in the global business world:
a prince in business.
Michiel Couzy and Maarten van Dun take the reader along
Bernhard's companies – from the internet to real estate, from the Netherlands
to Serbia, from luxury boats to fast cars. They show
how his business talent regularly turns out to be incompatible with the
public morality and legal authority.
Business prince is the story of a prince who feels that his origins
doesn't matter, but it's still constantly confronted
with its royal background. When does the hunt collide
to the success of the ambitious prince with his origins and his
Bernhard of Orange
- Born: 25 December 1969, son of Princess Margriet and Pieter van Vollenhoven, nephew of King Willem-Alexander.
- Bernhard studies in Groningen and starts his first company there, Ritzen Koeriers.
- In 1996 he set up internet company Clockwork, which he sold to Achmea in 1999, buys back in 2001 and sells again in 2003, this time to Ordina
- After the sale, he invests in real estate, both privately and through real estate company Pinnacle. He also sets up Levi 9, which develops software in the Balkans. He also does real estate development in Serbia.
- In 2016 he takes over the race circuit in Zandvoort with business partners. In 2019 he will experience his greatest business success, when he brings Formula 1 to Zandvoort. The first race, in May 2020, was cancelled due to corona.
- Bernhard has with business partners and via bv's also the real estate in the hands of a luxury beach bar in Zandvoort and he is the owner of boat brand Waterdream. He is founder and director of Lymph&Co,a fund that raises money for research into the fight against lymph node cancer.