July 2019

100 years active in real estate: an interview with Mrs. Van der Vorm

Rotterdam, July 17, 2019

As part of our 100th anniversary, a great time to look back at the long and beautiful history of our company with Mrs. Van der Vorm.

Mrs. Ineke van der Vorm (1935), wife of Jan van der Vorm (born in 1923 and passed away on October 8, 1999), together with her husband, stood at the foundation of today's Van der Vorm Vastgoed. Recently, the annual shareholders' meeting was held. Mrs. Van der Vorm still actively participates in it.

"Wherever you looked, you could see construction cranes on the horizon everywhere."

Mrs. Van der Vorm met her husband in 1962 at a birthday party. They were married in 1966. During that time, she experienced the resurgence of Rotterdam. "Wherever you looked, everywhere you saw construction cranes on the horizon," she said. Jan's father and grandfather owned a contracting company.

Jan van der Vorm was told by his father to go to technical school in Delft to get his degrees. However, he didn't want to do that. He wanted only one thing, to work in Rotterdam, "because there the money was on the street.
So he left school and, together with his brother Daan, started in Rotterdam as a contractor.

"Because that's where the money was on the street."

Jan became a member of the Rotterdam Contractors' Society at that time. This included the then famous contractors like Van Eesteren and De Winter and many others. Every Friday of the month they met in Engels in the Groothandelsgebouw. The wives came in ball gowns. "It was a dynamic and exciting time, all young enterprising people together."

"It turned out to be a big hit."

An important moment in Van der Vorm's history became the purchase of St. Ignatius Church on Van Vollenhoven Street. Madam relates that Jan was good friends with the then bishop. The bishop indicated that the church was in financial trouble and asked them to bid. Mrs. says she remembered this very well. Together Jan and I sat at the kitchen table doing the math, wondering aloud if the bid would be enough. It turned out to be enough and they managed to purchase the church. The church was demolished and a large office building arose. The company moved from the office on the Heemraadsingel also to this office building on the Van Vollenhovenstraat. A new period began.

Photographer: Ary Groeneveld (Rotterdam City Archives)

"Jan was already standing with one foot in his grave, so to speak," he said.

In the 1970s, the construction company grew rapidly through such well-known assignments as the construction of Ahoy, Carel Weeber's Peperclip and the construction of the then tallest building in the Netherlands, the Nationale Nederlanden building located next to the Central Station in Rotterdam. Companies were also acquired including Muis & de Winter, which was in danger of going bankrupt. Jan felt he had to help the employees. The in-laws did not think this was a good plan at first; "Jan was already with one leg in his grave, so to speak." The Muwi acquisition was one of the largest purchases at the time.

"It turned out to be a big hit," recalls Ms. Van der Vorm.

"From being a contractor, Jan became a real estate guy."

It was also at that time that Jan received many commissions from pension funds, Mrs. Van der Vorm says. A shopping center was built in Hoogvliet, with the plan to sell it to a pension fund, but Jan decided to keep it himself. For that time, a remarkable move for a private investor. At first he was ridiculed, but he felt,"what they (the pension funds) can do, I can do myself." With that decision, Jan laid the foundation of today's real estate company Van der Vorm Vastgoed. "From being a contractor, Jan became a real estate man."

In the years that followed, Jan carefully built a stable real estate portfolio. Rotterdam, the Drechtsteden, Delft and beyond. Jan proved to have a knack for the real estate business, the real estate company grew and the entrepreneurship of those 70s, 80s and 90s still bears fruit today.

"On his deathbed, Jan indicated that the Real Estate branch should never be sold.

In 1999, Jan died. Mrs. Van de Vorm says, "On his deathbed Jan indicated that the Real Estate branch should never be sold." Margreet van der Vorm took over all shares of the real estate company with her sister and mother after her father's death.

Daan's son, Daan jr., then continued with the construction company in 2003. Margreet soon proved to have the same genes as her father and Van der Vorm Vastgoed was successfully put further on the European map.

"Margreet was soon found to have the same genes as her father"

Ms. van der Vorm thinks the current company is great. She has respect for Margreet who stepped into the company like this from her former employer BNP Paris. At the time, Margreet was assisted by René de Graaff, who unfortunately also passed away. He was succeeded by Sico van Ammers, the current Managing Director. Mrs. notes that her husband would have been very proud. She herself is also happy and proud of all the employees and confident about the company's future.

"Hilton Hotel in Willemstad (Curacao)"

Over time, Van der Vorm Vastgoed has expanded its area of operations with acquisitions in France, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Poland. Ms. recalls that Jan was also approached in the past to build the Hilton Hotel in Willemstad, Curaçao. She was not in favor of that and in the end they decided not to do it. Her husband Jan wanted to gain momentum with all the projects he was working on. A project in Curaçao would take far too long for him.

In the end, it took 4 to 5 years to finish the building in Curaçao. Margreet did decide to invest abroad, what does Ms. Van der Vorm think about that? "Margreet is young and entrepreneurial. She is always fully behind her daughter! She follows Margreet's activities from a distance. "Margreet really enjoys doing the work, and if you enjoy doing something and it's going well, what more could you want? " Yes, it is important to take rest in time," Mrs. still advises from her heart.

Finally, Mrs. Van der Vorm would like to say that she is proud of her husband, children and grandchildren. "That's what life is all about. The family lives close together, which makes Mrs. Van der Vorm very happy. Meanwhile, the oldest grandson has also entered real estate. "A nice development, but he should mainly do what makes him happy!"

Finally, Ms. concludes the interview with a wish. It comes straight from her heart. "I hope that this wonderful team may obtain the wisdom of my husband to continue his life's work in the way he would have done in his good days in this day and age."

#100 years #Corporate #News