Van Hool grandson ‘misses the bus’ in court against GRW take-over

CIM Capital, founded by one of the grandsons of Van Hool founder Bernard, Mark Van Hool, missed out in court in summary proceedings on its claim against the take-over of the Van Hool truck-trailer division by Australian GRW.

CIM Capital, a Belgian investment company specializing in taking over ailing firms, claimed it was not granted access to vital company information, which was needed to make a well-founded bid. It accused the curators of considering only the GRW-VDL bids under so-called ‘time pressure’ to save jobs. But the judge ruled on Monday their claim was ‘too late’.

Sale was concluded

In Monday’s judgment, the judge ruled that “at the time of service of the summons in third-party opposition on May 6, 2024, the purchase agreement between the trustees and GRW had been concluded”.

In other words, CIM Capital “cannot claim that they still have an interest in being a third party against the decision to accelerate the sale, precisely because the sale had already taken place”. This means the take-over by GRW remains final unless CIM Capital appeals.

Years of internal family struggles

Antwerp-based investor CIM Capital was founded by one of the grandsons of Van Hool founder Bernard. Mark Van Hool’s father was one of the brothers who sold their shares in the company to the rest of the family after years of internal struggle.

When Bernard Van Hool died in 1974, he divided the company among his eight sons, giving them all leading positions and parts of the enterprise while leaving his two daughters, Ingrid and Simone, out.

When part of the brothers was bought out in 2001, and the other part continued the company with another grandson, Filip Van Hool, as CEO, the two sisters and their relatives claimed their part of the heritage. That conflict wasn’t settled in court until today.

After decades of fighting, a judge ordered the sequestration of two-thirds of the company’s shares. If this heritage wasn’t settled, a judge’s notary could have obstructed a take-over by new shareholders of a restructured company.

In March, crisis CEO Mark Zwaaneveld put the family under pressure at pistol-point to find an agreement, but as this had no result, bankruptcy was unavoidable.

Saving 550 jobs

On April 10th evening, two days after the Court in Mechelen declared Van Hool bankrupt, the curators finally chose the initial bids of VDL for the bus section and Australian GRW with its German partner Schmitz Cargobull for the industrial trailer section.

CIM Capital said it had made an initial bid of 21 million for the trailer division the day before, saying it would preserve at least 70% of the jobs in a quick restart, some 550 instead of 350 promised by GRW. However, it claimed it was willing to make a more founded bid after inspecting the company’s financial figures, which was never granted.

While GRW wanted to focus on only part of Van Hool’s former trailer production, the specialized tankers, CIM Capital, claimed it wanted to keep a wide variety of truck trailers in production, for which a well-filled order book exists. It says it was backed up in these by three former top managers from Van Hool.

Contrary to the GRW bid, CIM Capital also proposed buying the Van Hool imperium’s real estate in Koningshooikt (bus and trailer factory) with partner Delcrinvest. The latter is the family holding of Jos Delcroix, owner of the car tire company ‘Deldo Autobanden’.


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