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Dutch construction patriarch Dik Wessels dies aged 71

By James Beech

Dik Wessels, the Dutch construction tycoon and the family business patriarch who formed VolkerWessels, has died at the age of 71 after poor health.

Hailed as one of the most successful businessmen in the Netherlands, Wessels was aged 14 when he started working for the modest eponymous family business owned by his father, Rijssen carpenter Arend Wessels.

The second-generation leader officially took over in 1968 and accelerated business growth, especially in the 1980s after his father died. 

The new principal spearheaded two mergers, with Kondor in 1990 and Royal VolkerStevin in 1997, to form the €4 billion ($4.7 billion) construction, engineering, and telecom giant VolkerWessels. The firm expanded into the UK, Germany, and North America.

“He sold 45% of VolkerWessels to private equity giant CVC Capital Partners in 2007,” Forbes said.

“Wessels bought back the stake in 2013, increasing his personal interest in the company to about 85%.”

In May this year VolkerWessels raised €575 million ($681 million) in an initial public offering, after reporting annual revenues of €5.5 billion ($6.2 billion) in 2016.

For his efforts he was one of five leaders shortlisted for the Top Family Business Leader of the Year at the 2017 European Families in Business Awards in June this year.

The family-controlled company announced its founder's passing “with great dismay” on Tuesday.

“With his entrepreneurship, vision and craftsmanship, he laid the foundation for the company that VolkerWessels is today. Mr Wessels has been a member of the supervisory board since 2007.

“The loss of Mr Wessels is a big loss for us. With respect and gratitude, Mr Wessels remains in our memories, we will miss him. Our thoughts go out to the family. We wish them all a lot of strength in this difficult period.”

It did not announce what roles family members might have at VolkerWessels in the future.

Forbes estimated his personal net worth was $2.7 billion. Quote reported this week his personal wealth was €3.3 billion and listed him as the third wealthiest man in the Netherlands in its Quote 500 rich list.

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