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Royal Dutch Tanneries Hulshof located in Lichtenvoorde formerly went into administration in late November. Since that time the business has been put up for sale and so far it has attracted interest from three companies.
“The three businesses concerned are all European based and are interested in the high-end or luxury sector. They are particularly interested in the wet-blue and crust processing operations at this time”, Dr Herman M H M Hulshof, Managing Director told ILM (International Leather Maker).
Hulshof said that production at the tannery stopped in the first week of December and that 107 staff had been released and were now receiving Dutch social payments for the first six weeks. They can be re-employed in that time under Dutch law if the business continues.
“We have devised a rescue strategy for the business, which has an 80% capacity order book, where we could re-employ up to 70 of the workforce with a profitable business model. I remain committed and will offer my full support to any new owners of the tannery for the next five years if they need me”, he said.
The tannery was established by Herman Hulshof’s great-grandfather in 1876 and has been connected to the family ever since. It manufactures high-end leathers for furniture, aviation, leather goods and car seats using fresh European bull hides or calfskins.
The tannery has recently undergone a €20 million investment which includes new buildings, a protein plant and a modern bioenergy plant that reuses all the solid waste created by the tanning process. The tannery has also been fitted with the latest automation equipment and processes from beamhouse to finishing.
“I believe that we are one of the greenest tanners in the world. Our waste splits are processed by a protein (sister) company. All our solid waste is recycled and we have completely no smell in the environment around the tannery”, Hulshof explained.
Herman Hulshof says that the problems for the business started around five years ago. At the same time that they took out the loan to invest in the business the international banking crisis hit followed by the subsequent Euro economic crisis. He said that the furniture upholstery sector became particularly tough and the banks were not willing to offer further credit. In the past two years the company’s liquidity became very tight when the banks asked for the remaining €1.7 million loan to be paid back over one year while at the same time orders fell, hide prices rose and it coincided with a holiday period. “The company was getting through but a lack of liquidity finally forced the closure”, says Hulshof.
A new management team was appointed at the company in 2008 where Herman Hulshof believes much of the invested money (€10 million) was not spent wisely. “In 2012, I invested a further €300,000 into the business and we almost had it back in the black”, he said.
ILM asked Dr Hulshof how he felt about the current situation with the tannery, which has been in his family for generations. “I keep fighting for the skilled workers who are my friends through this difficult period. In recent years I have personally invested heavily in the business to keep it going and it was a very tough decision to take the business into administration. In hindsight, I wish I had been more involved in the day to day running of the company between 2008-11 when I feel some poor management decisions were taken.”
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