van 2010 tot 2017
General Counsel of Renewi plc
Lives in Amsterdam
Shorter is (nearly always) better
Why the move from Houthoff to Renewi?
Since working on my first case in the waste-processing sector in 2009 for Essent Milieu, as it was known at the time (now Attero), I’ve been fascinated by the waste-processing sector. It is a really interesting sector: from waste to product, it is sustainable but also very technologically interesting. I assisted Shanks Group plc with the acquisition of the Van Gansewinkel Group in the summer of 2016, so I got to know both companies well. They later merged to form Renewi. That summer was very hard work, but it was fun to work on such a great deal. When I then heard that the General Counsel didn’t want to stay with the new company, I began to get itchy feet. After much deliberation, I eventually decided to swap my position as partner with Houthoff for the commercial sector. The fact that I already knew the company and the management very well, found the sector extremely interesting and could learn a huge amount in this new job were what finally decided it for me.
Renewi aims to contribute to a sustainable society. How do you contribute to this in your role as a lawyer?
In our organisation, we initiate many innovative developments in partnership with others. For example, we are working with Philips to process old Philips vacuum cleaners into recycled plastic, which it then uses to produce new vacuum cleaners. A collaboration like this starts with a good idea, then a term sheet and a contract, and ultimately the product. As a lawyer, you can make an important contribution in the innovation chain by combining a good contract with effective and pragmatic negotiations.
What are the legal challenges for you at an international level?
I’m not sure that challenge is the right word, but Renewi is an international company with operations in the Benelux, the UK, France, Germany, Portugal and Canada. That means that many of the legal matters landing on my desk are not just about Dutch law. Luckily, the legal team has specialists with a Dutch, Belgian or English legal background, so that covers most of our business. The international aspects are actually most interesting at a human level, but sometimes challenging too in view of the cultural differences. Our Board, the Excom and the entire workforce, in fact, have a good mix of nationalities. That’s really nice, it makes working together interesting and we can learn a lot from each other.
What lessons did you take with you from Houthoff?
At Houthoff I learnt, as the business partner of my clients, to think pragmatically and focus on solutions in my advice. In the M&A practice in particular, the client asks for all kinds of advice and solutions that are not always just legal in nature and often need to be dealt with quickly. I still use these skills every day. The same is true at Renewi, where we, the legal counsel, support the business as partners. Swift and pragmatic advice is a basic need: we not only consider matters from a legal perspective, but also seek solutions to questions that are rarely just a matter of law.