Under-represented women drive buyout strategy for Dutch fund

Male Interns

“Investors don’t even talk to us to begin with if they don’t believe in diversity,” Van Boxtel said. “We have quite a few investors from the fashion industry, possibly because diversity is normal in that segment.”

The founders have similar home lives: all three are mothers of two young children with working husbands and an au pair to help. Operating a business is probably better than a banking career for balancing family with work, Van Boxtel said.

Mindful that too little male input may be negative, they’ve brought in a man as their fourth full-time employee, and say they prefer to hire male interns.

The fund, which intends to make eight to 10 investments over five years, targets returns of more than 25% for each company in its portfolio. In December, Karmijn bought a minority stake in YouMedical, a seller of over-the-counter personal-care products. That followed its first deal, a majority stake as part of a management buyout of Enrico BV, which imports Mediterranean foods for supermarkets and wholesalers.

‘Not Philanthropic’

Heleen van Gulik, hired by Karmijn to be Enrico’s chief executive officer, says she’s already noticed a difference working with female investors for the first time in her 25-year career.

“The women of Karmijn understand the need for acknowledgement” a female executive may have, Van Gulik said. “I left any reserves on working with male bankers or investors behind me a long time ago. It’s not about being too shy to work with them. The point is more that I find this more agreeable.”

Marlies Dekkers’s lingerie label was declared bankrupt on Aug. 21 after suffering during Europe’s economic downturn. Karmijn subsequently bought parts of Dekkers’s MD Group BV holding company out of administration.

The firm paid about 5 million euros for Dekkers’ brand name and stock, administrator Christiaan Groenewoud said by telephone today. The Dutch website Retailnews.nl reported the amount earlier.

Karmijn will close six of 12 stores, fire 65 of the firm’s 100 employees and focus on Internet sales to turn the business around. Dekkers will remain involved in the company she founded, with a seat on the management board, in keeping with Karmijn’s vow to retain female talent.

“They are not a philanthropic institution,” Enrico’s Van Gulik said. “They are a private-equity fund that has to score, and this is their strategy to do so.”

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