Some saw Freddy Heineken as a shrewd business mogul, others saw him as the man who turned a Dutch brewery company into a worldwide brand; but the life and time of Freddy Heineken was not devoid of topsy-turvy situations.
In spite of this, he left with him a trail blazing legacy; the Heineken brewery company. The Heineken brewery company is renowned today for their beer and of course as one of the main sponsors of Europe’s most watched soccer competition, the UEFA Champions league. From his planned takeover of the Heineken Company to the Heineken kidnapping, there is so much about Freddy Heineken that is worth mentioning.
Who was Freddy Heineken?
Alfred Henry Heineken, popularly known as just ‘Freddy Heineken’, was the grandson to Gerard Adriaan Heineken, the Dutch businessman who founded the Heineken brewery company. Freddy Heineken was born on November 4 1923 to Mr Henry Heineken who as at that time had inherited the company from his father Gerard Adriaan Heineken. Freddy Heineken’s dad was said to have sold the company after not being able to manage it properly. Freddy Heineken however still had a small share in the company. It was said that Freddy Heineken’s Dad drank a lot of Heineken that he was always too drunk to manage the company.
Freddy Heineken was however not like his father and from a young age he was very ambitious so much so that he masterminded the takeover of the Heineken Company, restoring his family’s legacy as the owners of the company.
At the age of 18 he was said to have written a letter to his father were he made this his ambition very clear without mincing words. He said;
“I have my mind set on restoring the majority of shares in Heineken into the hands of the family. It’s not my plan to become very rich, but it is a matter of pride that any children I might have can inherit a stake in Heineken, like I did from my father and you inherited from your father.”
History showed that he proved true to this his plan, and even though he said wealth was not his primary motivation, it still came along with the territory he was motivated to tread. This is such that as at the time of his death he was one of the richest people in his country (the Netherlands) with an estimated net worth totalling about 9.5 billion Dutch guilders.
Freddy Heineken passed on in the company of his immediate family on January 3 2002 on account of Pneumonia. He had however had different health issues prior to that and it was said that he had suffered from a minor stroke in 1999 from which he recovered. Freddy Heineken again proved true to his youthful ambition in his death; as his daughter, Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken would go on to inherit her father’s fortune.
Notable Acts of Freddy Heineken
Freddy Heineken on the 1st of June 1941 began working in the Heineken Company. As at this time, the company had already been sold by his dad. But his motivation was clear and with a series of bold moves he would go on to buy the company back. One of such moves was when he rented a Rolls Royce and with his friend as his chauffeur, he drove to the bank. Then with the aid of his charisma and charm he talked his way to securing a whopping 400 thousand Dutch guilders loan from the bank. He would go on to use the money to buy a minority part of the Heineken company back, in a move that got some of the shareholders really upset. But Freddy Heineken was not done yet; as a matter of fact he was just barely getting started. He was then given a job as a sales manager in the New York office.
This to them may have been a way to just put Freddy Heineken in check because Heineken was mainly based in the Netherlands and they didn’t do much sales in the USA. But this was the beginning of the rise of Freddy Heineken. As at that time, New York City was the centre of advertising agencies in the world. This was something that wasn’t really very common in the Netherlands.
Mr Freddy Heineken was however impressed by the potentials he saw in advertising and he took advantage of it. With the aid of advertising campaigns, Freddy Heineken grew the sales of Heineken to about 260%, a notable high. This was such that by the time he returned to the Netherlands in 1948 he was made the sales director for the entire Northern Ireland; an appointment that placed him in pole position for his planned takeover and years later he did. Below are some of the positions he held at Heineken:
– Chairman Board of Directors and CEO from 1971 – 1989
– Chairman Supervisory Board from 1989 – 1995
– He also created and was a major stake holder in Heineken Holding that owned up to half of Heineken International
By the time Freddy Heineken was retiring from the Chairmanship position in 1989, he had transformed the Heineken Company from just a local brand in the Netherlands to an internationally renowned multibillion dollar enterprise.
The Heineken Kidnapping
In 1983 Freddy Heineken was confronted with one of the greatest fears any billionaire is faced with; the fear of being kidnapped. He and his chauffeur were kidnapped by 5 gun men at the close of work and they were held for three weeks. Freddy Heineken was said to have left his office at about 6:56pm on January 9 1983, when a group of 5 masked men with guns forced Mr Freddy Heineken and his driver into their minibus and sped off. The Heineken kidnapping would go on to create a stand off between the kidnappers and the police; a stand off that would last for a full three weeks.
The Heineken kidnapping was one of the biggest kidnappings in that time and the ransom that was paid for their release was 35 million Dutch guilders (an estimated 16 million euros). This was also the highest ransom amount paid at the time. It was said that the flamboyant lifestyle and the legend of how Freddy Heineken bought back the Heineken Company may have led to his kidnapping.
The kidnappers responsible for the Heineken kidnapping were later caught and the 5 of them served jail terms. In 2015, a movie was made on the Heineken kidnapping titled ‘kidnapping Mr Heineken’. The movie detailed some of the events of the Heineken kidnapping with Sir Anthony Hopkins playing Freddy Heineken. There were also books and several articles written about what was one of the biggest crime stories in that time.
Today, Heineken is renowned the world over, and a man who played a huge role in bringing it to reality is Freddy Heineken. History will definitely remember him as a man whose burning vision led to the reclaim of his family’s legacy.