The Martinshof Story - Page 13

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44. Liquidation ?   I don't think so!

Wivica in her studio, June 2008 After rushing through a number of creative and cost cutting projects in the second half of 1981, I felt I had done what I could do for the time being and was ready for a break.
I wanted to see my children again and get back to my own environment to recharge my batteries. It was abundantly clear to me that I did no longer fit in the Dutch environment and I absolutely hated the climate.

So in March I went back to Adelaide for a month. While I was away my sister Wivica would hold the fort until I got back. Wivica could be a tuff cookie and I had full confidence in her. (In 1990-92, after the Berlin wall had come down, Wivica single handedly recouped and sold a property in East Germany which had been lost to our Grandparents when they fled the East zone in the 1950s, scared off by the Communist regime).

Immediately after my father's death, when I took charge of Martinshof, I reintroduced my mother back into the company. She was doing simple things like preparing the parcels to be posted to our customers each day, and she immensely enjoyed that. The personnel all loved her of course.

It was wonderful to be back in Australia. I had a small 2 bedroom flat right on the beach in Glenelg and in the morning when I woke up I did not even have to lift my head from the pillow to see the ocean right in front of me.
I had a good time and, amongst other things, briefed my brother Claus about our current situation in Holland.

The IJssel at the Houtwal, Gorssel, 2008 Coming back was tough. In the morning, before flying out, I had a stroll on the beach in front of my flat. It was a beautiful morning with a sunny, clear blue sky.

Arriving 20 hours later at Schiphol airport the weather could not be more contrasting. It was cold and it hailed and rained from a depressingly dark sky, and I immediately felt as if a heavy millstone had been dropped around my neck.

When I arrived home I got into the car and just drove around, depressed and desperately unhappy. I stopped at the Houtwal in Gorssel for a while, watching the IJssel flow by.   Why on earth did I have to be here? Well, I knew of course.

The beginning of the working week was not much better. My bank manager, Mr. Jansen, asked me to come to his office. Not a good sign at all, as normally he would come to Martinshof instead. Was he going to pull the plug?
"Mr Furstner" he said while he was sitting opposite me behind his desk, "you have done everything you could, but it is just not working. I will give you 3 months time to liquidate your company. I am very sorry, but there is nothing else I can do."

Mr. Jansen had really done a marvelous job for us. For many months now he had each month kept our big payment cheques to Niessing and Or Est in his drawer until after his monthly review meeting at his bank's Head Office in Rotterdam, so that our financial situation appeared to his bosses far less critical than it actually was.
Immediately after the meeting he would charge the cheques towards our account, revealing the true situation.
By this time however (April 1982) our bank overdraft had reached 1,2 million guilders, two times our officially permitted amount. We also owed an additional 300,000 guilders to our two main creditors (Niessing and Or Est). Jansen therefore just had to take a stand for his bank.

I walked out off the bank rather calmly. Liquidating 3 cars and our gold stock would do neither us nor the bank much good, and I was certainly not going to follow Jansen's instructions. I truly felt that our big cost savings had not started to come through yet, as only now some of the staff was going onto half time work. In three months time, I felt sure our financial situation would be much better.

Farewell party at Cafe Beuse, before 

leaving for Australia, December 1965 Apart from the savings we had implemented already there was Cees van Overbeeke. My father had employed him on a one year trial contract. He hoped to find in him a possible Manager for Martinshof, but it was not working out that way. Cees had so far only been working in an up market Diamond retail shop in Amsterdam, but was totally unexperienced in all aspects of wholesaling. I had great appreciating and respect for the way he had slugged it out for a year on the road during a time that the going was tough, if not impossible. But there was just no way that I could afford to give him a new contract. This would shortly drop a large cost out off our budget, as it would mean one senior salary less and also one more car I could get rid of.

If things still did not work out I had a vague idea (Plan B) of continuing the business with a skeleton crew : my mother, my sister Wivica, and if we could afford it a diamond setter on half days and perhaps one person on the road. We would struggle on this way until things hopefully improved. But this disaster plan was a long way off yet. All the same, these were burdensome days indeed and my only respites were the quiet relaxed evenings at Cafe Beuse with Jan Klein-Hesselink and a few of my childhood friends.


Copyright © 2010 Michael Furstner