V.l.n.r.: Jennifer, Pieter, Willem en Wim van der Leegte. Beeld: VDL
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Yesterday, Van der Leegte Groep (VDL Groep) announced in a press release that founder Wim van der Leegte died suddenly in the night from Saturday to Sunday. Van der Leegte family: “This sudden loss deeply saddens us. Wim was, first and foremost, a wonderful husband, father, and grandfather to us. We feel strengthened by the many expressions of sympathy and want to thank everyone. Our dad has had great meaning for many.”

  • Wim van der Leegte passed away last weekend; he was the founder of VDL Groep;
  • Under his leadership, the company grew to over 16,000 employees and €3 billion in sales;
  • A pioneer, he preserved jobs in the Netherlands, focusing on sustainable development, including the electrification of city bus transport.

Wim van der Leegte left an indelible mark on Dutch industry. His influence extended beyond the family business. Van der Leegte pioneered preserving manufacturing and employment in the Netherlands. This became visible, among other things, by maintaining employment at VDL Nedcar in Born.

A life dedicated to the manufacturing industry

Van der Leegte’s career began as a 19-year-old student when he served an internship in his father’s company, which had been founded in 1953. Unexpected circumstances soon put him in charge. Under his vision and leadership, the company transformed into an international player. VDL Groep’s growth into a concern with a turnover of nearly six billion euros in 2022 and 16,000 employees indicates his entrepreneurship.

Eye for sustainability and innovation

Van der Leegte not only had an eye for economic growth but also for sustainable development. This was demonstrated by the development of fully electric buses for urban transport. With this step, VDL Groep acquired a dominant position in the electrification of public transport and contributed to a more sustainable society.

Enduring recognition and appreciation

The appreciation for Van der Leegte’s contributions was great. In addition to the Golden RAI Wheel, he received the Commandeur in de Orde van Oranje-Nassau award in 2014. In 2016, he was honored with the award Figurehead of Dutch Entrepreneurship. These awards highlight recognition for his influence on the Dutch economy.

Connection to the region

His connection to the region remained strong even after he stepped down as president. The mayor of Eindhoven, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, described him as “a true Brabander.” VDL Groep was also a significant sponsor for local sports clubs and associations, including PSV, where Van der Leegte was active on the supervisory board.

A legacy in good hands

Wim van der Leegte’s legacy is in good hands with his children Pieter, Jennifer, and Willem van der Leegte. They took joint control of the family business in 2016. The sudden death of their father comes at a difficult time. Earlier this month it became clear that by early next year almost all jobs at Nedcar, BMW is not renewing the contract after twelve years, and there is no new customer. The company will go from 16,000 to 12,000 employees; the company has never seen such a large round of layoffs.

The impact of Wim van der Leegte

Wim van der Leegte’s impact on the Dutch economy and manufacturing industry continues to be felt. Chairman Ingrid Thijssen of VNO-NCW called him “extraordinarily significant.” His vision of entrepreneurship and commitment to the manufacturing industry have left a lasting impression. Van der Leegte’s passing marks the end of an era, but his spirit of innovation and dedication to industry lives on in the company he made great.