Finance

Supermarket boss Jan Kat (70) unbundles merger Dirk and Dekamarkt

Who is supermarket entrepreneur Jan Kat?

Kat was born in 1951 as the second son of Dirk Kat, the founder of the North Holland supermarket chain Kijkspreis, later Dekamarkt. Initially, he worked at the FAO, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. But in 1985 Kat switched to the family business, as financial director. He was 34 at the time.

His older brother Siem had already succeeded their father as general manager five years earlier. Together, the brothers expanded the retail chain from 30 to 80 branches.

What was Kat doing at Dekamarkt?

As financial and operational director, Kat was also responsible for automation, human resources and logistics. According to the official company history ‘Van Kijkrijp tot Dekamarkt’, he was an avowed supporter of innovations, such as home delivery and self-scanning. But the ruddy supermarket man never stepped into the spotlight. Hardly any photos or interviews of him are known.

Did he develop Dekamarkt into a national player?

Not that. After the recent takeover of nineteen Deen supermarkets, Dekamarkt now has about a hundred branches. But in the north and south of the Netherlands nobody knows the name of the company. The Kat family’s stores are located in North and South Holland, Utrecht, Flevoland, Gelderland and Overijssel.

Is such a small player viable in the long term?

The Kat brothers didn’t think so. After the turn of the century, the family business therefore started to work increasingly closely with the larger Dirk van den Broek. In 2008, this eventually led to a merger into Detailresult Groep. The combination currently accounts for about 200 stores, 20,000 employees, a turnover of more than 2 billion euros and a market share of 5.4 percent.

Was the merger a success?

After the merger, Dirk and Dekamarkt continued to maintain their own formulas as low-cost and full-service supermarkets respectively. But by sharing things like human resources, automation, bakeries, butchers and distribution ‘at the back’, the families were able to save a lot of money.

That led to higher profits and dividends. According to the wealth list Quote 500, the assets of Jan and his brother increased from 275 million to 710 million euros between 2009 and 2019.

Did Jan Kat remain involved with the company after the merger?

After the merger, Kat led the integration of Dekamarkt and Dirk to Detailresult for a few years. In 2011, the then 60-year-old founder’s son eventually resigned as CEO.

At the time, he emphasized that he would keep his distance from the supermarket company. By not becoming a supervisory director, he wanted to give the new external management room. As a shareholder, he did, however, have a big finger in the pie. This also applied to the other founder member Henk van den Broek, who resigned as director around the same time.

What has he been doing for the past ten years?

What Kat did between his 60th and 70th years is unclear. His brother Siem, six years older, became active as a farmer and livestock farmer after he left the supermarket, including on his Wildhoef estate near Beverwijk. Jan’s wife Beth Johnson bought the Amsterdam bookshop Van Rossum on Beethovenstraat in 1997, which she sold last year. But what Kat plunged into after leaving Detailresult is unknown.

Why did Kat become a commissioner this year?

This was a turbulent year for Detailresult, in which the collaboration between the two supermarket chains Dirk and Deen was largely canceled again. After many years of apparently successful cooperation, the company says that the chains have a greater need for independent management. CEO Albert Voogd left in May, who was not succeeded.

This month it turned out that Kat had become a supervisor at the company in March against his earlier wishes. Now that the company is in such troubled waters, the founder’s son seems to feel compelled to take back control at Detailresult.

Whether the disentanglement is a prelude to a complete break between the family businesses is uncertain. Kat and Detailresult do not want to give a definite answer yet.

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