The Cutting Room – Issue 409


Although there’s a long way to go before Oldersma begins to turn things around, there’s a lot to say for a man who would still be in China if not for a personal twist of fate.

When Doughty Hanson went on the hunt to replace long-standing 20:20 chief Mark Ryan, who unexpectedly resigned last year, they phoned Oldersma, who was then chief executive of IT distributor Ingram Micro’s Chinese business.

Mobile News caught up with Oldersma – tall, energetic and candid – at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month, amid a frenzy of press conferences, meetings and displays. The less than glamorous press room didn’t faze him at all as he took his place by a half-empty water cooler, declining tea, coffee, and even a biscuit. Fittingly, the conversation soon led to declining job offers.

Turning down jobs

“I normally decline job offers; I get about three a year,” he said.

But the 20:20 offer came at the right time, as the eldest of Dutchman Oldersma’s two daughters decided she would like to begin her university studies in the UK, which Oldersma says “feels like home”.

Oldersma’s family will join him in the UK in the summer after his daughters, aged 18 and 16, finish their academic year at an international school.

Reluctant to give away too many details of strategy and numbers, Oldersma said he was still in the process of “putting his arms around” the job.

But he is not new to the takeover process, this being the fifth time he has assumed leadership after a long-standing boss.

Oldersma is also reluctant to draw comparisons between himself and predecessor Ryan, saying: “It wouldn’t be fair to comment on how other people have done their jobs, but what they did made perfect sense for the former owners.

"However, this industry is moving at a very quick pace and the need for a distributor to add value is evolving.”

He added that the Caudwell empire did “a very good job” in maximising the company’s value, but that he had his own vision for the next five years – a strategy for which he was compiling at the time and may still well be.

Of course, the time and place were both inappropriately set for divulging details of such a strategy. However, Oldersma said: “We need to grow in the countries that we’re in, and that doesn’t necessarily mean through acquisitions. If we understand our role, there’s no reason we cant grow organically."

More consolidation

“Are we open for more acquisitions? Time will tell. We don’t want to exclude anybody; I want to be open-minded and listen to the options.

“This industry will continue to consolidate, which is what happens when an industry becomes mature. There will be consolidation within different customer segments. Chain store numbers will become less and less.

“You have to be proactive in the face of consolidation, by focussing on getting more customers and increasing the frequency of trading. If you do a good job, people will put more business your way. Doing a good job also means reducing problems and costs.”

Oldersma added that he would also focus on lifting PR activities within the company and would be available for comment whenever possible.

We’ve yet to judge what this man can do, but it seems like a good move so far.