The slum lord of the Netherlands

Living in the Netherlands for nearly 18 months, I’ve come to learn a great deal about the Dutch people. Their friendliness, pleasantness and all-around cheerful demeanor are known worldwide and appreciated by expats and other internationals. Their knowledge of civil engineering and water management is rivaled by almost none. And their care for their homes, their gardens, their neighbourhoods, communities, regions, provinces and their country is some of the most attentive I’ve experienced in decades of traveling and living all over the world. Except for one Dutchman: Ronnie van der Putte.

Ronnie van der Putte is the primary shareholder and director of Bever Holding company, a real estate and financial company headquartered in Wassenaar, just north of The Hague. Besides these titles, Mr. Van der Putte is also notoriously known as the “slum lord of the Netherlands”, because, though he and Bever are the owners of a large portfolio of real estate throughout the Netherlands, he does not maintain them, does not lease them out, will not cooperate with the municipalities on which they stand and does not seem to value the usual “attentiveness” to the care and respect for his community, region and seemingly even his country.

Most of Bever’s real estate holdings are in Noordwijk, where I’ve been living since I arrived in the country in April 2019. It didn’t take long for me to see the scar that his neglected properties have left on this community. One of the remaining lighthouses still in operation (though not used) is on a once-beautiful square, the Vuurtorenplein, near the end of the beautiful Koningin Wilhelmina Boulevard. The lighthouse towers over the square, once lined with shops and restaurants, but now run-down, dilapidated, crumbling and covered in graffiti. Another location, a hotel on another square at the opposite end of the same boulevard, was torn down by Bever. A dug-out empty lot with a rickety chain-linked fence is all that remains now. Still another property, a former riding school and stable located near the entrance to the gorgeous national park Hollandse Duinen, suffered not one but two fires and still Ronnie van der Putte did nothing to repair the damage, much less improve anything. He even fought the municipality when it decided to remove some of the decrepit buildings left by the fires.

It’s unknown why Bever is unwilling to maintain or repair the properties, or even secure their safety. It’s also unknown why Bever would purchase such expensive real estate properties only to kick out the occupants and leave them empty with no rental income. It’s unknown why Mr. Van der Putte has an apparent affinity towards the deterioration of the properties he purchases. And it’s unknown why this man continues to fight municipalities in developing, purchasing or even partnering with him on improving these locations. What is also unknown is why Mr. Van der Putte cares so little about his reputation and his legacy, since the local papers have been reporting negatively on him for years and years.

Currently, the municipality of Noordwijk is attempting to circumvent Bever Holding and its ignoring of the real estate and renting laws of the Netherlands by enforcing a pre-emptive ‘first right of purchase’ on at least one of the shops in the Vuurtorenplein. This seems to be a victory in the long saga between the municipality and Bever, albeit a small one and as yet not 100% certain. Still, the city believes that it has a gained foothold in creating a positive future for the various real estate holdings in this coastal town. It also seems the municipality has lost its patience with Mr. Van der Putte, saying that it no longer wants to enter discussions with Bever to see what its future plans are. Rather, the municipality simply wants to legally and amicably purchase the properties, starting with the shops at the lighthouse square.

Bever Holding is also the owner of the listed monument Huize Ivicke in Wassenaar, located on the N44 road between The Hague and Leiden. As I have read, the municipality of Wassenaar is also in a fight with Bever Holdings to revive this historic location, which is now occupied by squatters.

As a new member of this community and the Netherlands, I find it incredibly shocking that, in a country whose citizens (for the most part) take such enormous pride in their surroundings, a seemingly rich and successful real estate developer and entrepreneur would take such little pride in his business dealings. The lack of attention to these properties has reduced the value of these areas for other businesses and residents in the vicinity and hindered their development. For a Dutch person to knowingly and willfully do this to the neighbourhood in which he has a vested interest is perplexing to me.

Written by Marla Thomson
Marla Thomson is a freelance writer and expat, living in the Bollenstreek