Fred van Olphen, the founder and former owner of Bever Zwerfsport, the leading Dutch outdoor retailer, has acquired Robijns, a distribution company specializing in technical outdoor products. The company was previously owned by Marco Robijns and his spouse, Paulien Verhoeven, who have been running the business for more than two decades.
Robijns is the distributor for outdoor brands ranging from Wenger to Primus, Katadyn and Yamax, to which it recently added Loksak – all of them in the Netherlands and most of them in the Benelux countries. The company also established Rubytec, a brand of outdoor accessories that is now sold in a dozen countries. Separately, Robijns has diversified with some activities in the water sports and fitness market, particularly with the distribution of Suunto.
Fred and Mous van Olphen established Bever Zwerfsport in 1977 and sold it in 1994 as part of a management buy-in financed by Gimv, a Belgian financial institution. In 2007 it was taken over again by A.S. Adventure in Belgium, itself owned by Lion Capital, and it was renamed Bever. The A.S. Adventure group further comprises A.S. Adventure in Belgium and Cotswold Outdoor in the U.K. Meanwhile, Van Olphen said he had been traveling extensively, engaging in nature photography and investing in a few ventures such as climbing walls.
The longtime outdoor specialist said that the acquisition of Robijns was mostly meant as an investment for his sons, Niels and Thijs. He would have to learn about the wholesaling side of the business, and would then assess any potential strategic changes. For the time being, all employees are staying on board and the operations in Aalsmeer remain unchanged, which was one of the factors that motivated the sale to Van Olphen.
Robijns and Verhoeven are to stay on for a few weeks but they said they wanted to make a clean cut, to leave rapidly and without any shares or involvement that could hinder the new management. They will be replaced at Robijns by two other Dutch executives who have long been involved in Bever: Victor Lenard, who was regarded as Van Olphen's right-hand man; and Leendert van Loon, formerly in charge of finance at Bever, who will take on the same function at Robijns.
Robijns has been in business since 1915, when Marco's grandfather started selling hair-cutting scissors. The company moved into the outdoor market when it began to sell cutlery and obtained rights to distribute Wenger. However, Robijns decided to fully focus on the outdoor business from 1996, when Marco took over the family firm.