11 Jan 22

“Of course, I would have preferred to see LeasePlan acquire ALD!”

Both Michel Van den Broeck (pictured left) and Nick Salkeld (pictured right) spent decades of their professional lives at LeasePlan. For them, the sale of the company is not just business, it’s also a bit personal. Even though neither was surprised by the deal, there is also a sense that it could have gone differently. In either case – both Michel and Nick remain proud of their time at LeasePlan, and of the company’s stellar achievements.

Michel Van den Broeck spent a quarter century with LeasePlan as managing director and as senior vice-president, and he was the first President of LeasePlan International. In 2016, Mr Van den Broeck retired from the company, to concentrate on independent board memberships. 

Were you surprised by the sale of LeasePlan?

“Not really. For months in advance, we knew this was going to happen. It’s good to have certainty now, although it will be interesting to see how this deal will get the necessary authorisations. Much will depend on how they will define their business.”

How do you mean? 

“If you’re looking at full operational leasing, the combined market share of ALD and LeasePlan is dominant. But when you look at the wider context of leasing, or even if you just also take financial leasing and bank leases into consideration, they are much less dominant. So, the ease of approval by the relevant authorities will depend at least in part on the way ‘NewALD’ frames its leasing activity.”

Do you think this is a good deal for LeasePlan?

“Right now, I think the deal is the best that could have happened to LeasePlan. Personally, though, I would have liked that it had been LeasePlan who acquired ALD! However, that became impossible after the sale of LeasePlan in the early 2000s to a consortium led by Volkswagen: ever since, the shareholder environment has been unstable.” 

“As a result, a long-term vision at shareholder level was never developed. That also led to questions about the company’s effective independence. That situation has not changed with LeasePlan’s current lead shareholders, TDR Capital. When a private equity company like that enters the board, you know they’re already thinking about the exit.”

After the takeover by TDR Capital, LeasePlan experienced something of a brain drain, with a lot of executives and managers leaving the company. Was that the beginning of an inevitable process leading to the end of the company?

“That may be putting it a bit too strong. Personnel changes are normal, especially when a company enters new ownership. Honestly, the ‘old dinosaurs’ wouldn’t have been able to make the necessary changes and achieve the strong degree of operational centralisation that the new management has managed to achieve. Of course, this happened fast – too fast for some, without a lot of emotion or tact. But that’s business.”

Looking back at your own time at LeasePlan, what does the company represent for you?

“LeasePlan stands for proximity to the customer. We were the first lease company to successfully expand internationally. We did this not by entering a lot of partnerships, but rather by acquisitions and greenfield developments. Thanks to our pioneering spirit, we achieved continuous growth over many years.”

“And that makes me proud. Knowing that I contributed to building an organisation that has an excellent performance record of 60 years, both externally towards its customers, and internally towards its employees.”

What do you think ‘NewALD’ should definitely keep from LeasePlan’s history and character?

“The willingness to excel and the aim to always serve the customer.”

So, not LeasePlan’s famous corporate colour, orange?

“Oh no. I’m not emotional about that. In my time, I’ve seen the LeasePlan logo change three times. And by the way, in a B2B environment, the brand label is less important anyway than in a strictly retail environment. More important is that for approximately 60 years, the company has operated under the same name!”

Nick Salkeld started out as Commercial Director of LeasePlan UK in 1998, rose to become Managing Director of LeasePlan International and then Regional Senior Vice-President. Mr. Salkeld ended his long involvement with the company as Chief Commercial Officer in 2017. He is now Chief Operating Officer at MHC Mobility Europe. 

Were you surprised by the sale of LeasePlan?

“No. In March, we heard ALD and LeasePlan were interested in each other. In October, they confirmed that they were in talks. And now the deal is announced, it’s finally a fact. But as I said, we knew this might happen.”

In your time at LeasePlan, could you have imagined the company being bought by a competitor?

“When you work for a big multinational company, you always know that this might happen. In my period with LeasePlan, I’ve been through two acquisitions, first by Global Mobility Holding in 2004, then by LP Group in 2015. So, a sale of LeasePlan is in itself nothing new. What is new, however, is that the brand name may disappear.”

Was this the right time for the deal?

“What is the right time? By definition, when a buyer and seller find each other, it’s always the right time. After a turbulent couple of years, with uncertainty due to the pandemic, we have seen that all market players have had a good 2021. They were able to recover well, thanks in large part to excellent used-car market figures. In this context, it was the right time for the two shareholders to reach an agreement.” 

And is it the right price? 

“Once again, if the shareholders are happy about the price, then it’s the right price. It’s not up to me to comment on the finance details of this deal.”

Looking back at your own time at LeasePlan, what does the company represent for you?

“An innovative spirit, and talented people. Innovation has been a key driver for LeasePlan’s success. Think about the open calculation model, which was revolutionary at the time and is now used by others as well.  And with that innovation came the talent, the quality of people to deliver good levels of service.”

“For me, the most memorable period at LeasePlan was during and after the global credit crisis of 2007 and 2008: seeing how our people in our various markets responded to that crisis, working together, and coming up with new ideas that kept LeasePlan successful and on the growth path. Still today, the power of LeasePlan rests on the talent of its people in its various markets.” 

What do you think ‘NewALD’ should definitely keep from LeasePlan’s history and character?

“The spirit of the company, the reason why they bought LeasePlan. And that’s not just the size or the services. It’s the quality of its people, who deliver LeasePlan’s services with an innovative spirit.” 

Authored by: Steven Schoefs