Roland D’Ieteren (78) has passed away
Roland D’Ieteren, the enigmatic car lover and former CEO and President of the family company D’Ieteren, has died on Thursday from the coronavirus’s effects.
For 30 years, he was the CEO of his family business, founded by Jean-Joseph D’Ieteren in Brussels in 1805. Roland D’Ieteren was the sixth generation in the company and stayed on as President of the board until the age limit of 75 in 2017.
After the war
World war II was a turning point in the D’Ieteren history. Roland’s father, Pierre, got Volkswagen’s import rights, and together with the success of the VW Beetle, the D’Ieteren star began to rise.
D’Ieteren was not only the importer of VW; the company also assembled VWs (mostly Beetles). The factory in Forest (Brussels) was sold to Volkswagen in the early seventies and is now the production site of the Audi e-tron.
Under the reign of Roland, the family business became the international group it is now. In 1989, D’Ieteren took over the car renting company Avis Europe (which has been resold since), and in 1999, the glass specialist Belron was acquired. The latter is also the renowned Carglass repair service’s mother company and remains the jewel in the company crown.
Roland D’Ieteren was extremely media-shy — it’s challenging to find him pictured — but his name rang a bell in the whole automotive world. He shared school banks with former VW patriarch Ferdinand Piëch. The families even went on holiday together and built up an impressive relational network.
In 2006, when the VW factory in Forest was near death, Roland brought his old school mate Piëch and the (then) Prime Minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, together. The two men appreciated each other, and the Brussels factory was saved and became an Audi plant.
Roland D’Ieteren was also very close with the Belgian court (in 2009, he got the title of a baron) and was considered one of the top 25 richest Belgians. His personal holding Nayarit (together with his son Nicolas, now President of the board at D’Ieteren) still has 32% of D’Ieteren shares. His sister Catherine detains 25,5% (via the holding SPDG Group).
Although the family business diversified, Roland has always been a car guy. He had an unbelievably rich collection of old cars (the D’Ieteren Gallery) and an even more exclusive personal collection.
People came from all over the world to admire the Gallery. One of the latest famous visitors to be guided by Roland himself was Jay Leno, the popular American TV host, and an even bigger car nut.
Roland D’Ieteren also had his personal little toys like the Italian carrozzeria Touring Superleggera he bought in 2006. He was also personally involved in another Italian coach maker (Zagato) and a famous wheel producer (Borani).
At its top
The corona pandemic has unexpectedly taken the life of one of Belgian’s biggest car monuments. He has suddenly left us now that his company has reached an absolute record as a share was valued at almost €70 this week. It means that the stock value of the company now turns around €3,7 billion.
In 2019, D’Ieteren Group recorded a turnover of €3,8 billion, but if you include glass manufacturer Belron (of which it detains 58% of shares), total turnover would be around €8 billion.