“Understand culture and demolish barriers”
Paolo Pavan, an Italian aristocrat and investor, likes to be part of the history of wherever he lives. Whether that happens to be in Italy or in Eindhoven, where he has now made his domicile. He takes a good look around him and values what he discovers. A modern man with a great feel for history, if that is a hundred, or even a thousand years ago. We got talking to Pavan about his plans to invest in the new Dutch economy.
Pavan and his company are interesting new investors in Eindhoven, but that is about much more than just money he lets us know. He sees a lot of value in old and new buildings, furniture, art, design, in the widest possible sense. In short, the new Dutch economy is what interests him. And he likes to be part of that.
He is of course also a canny businessman, but everything he undertakes is laced with his personal likes and dislikes. His culture. He is here as advisor for the many expats in this region and helps them get through all the red tape of rules and regulations, both as an accountant and advisor in the area of taxes.
On the other hand he also wants to lend the Dutch a helping hand when it comes to the best way of doing business with Italians. For example, an appointment for half an hour, is seen as something of an insult. “I say: understand the cultural differences and demolish barriers. That of course goes in both directions,”.
Paolo Pavan does everything at once. After a year of negotiations with the city, he has been able to buy the Lichttoren (Light tower), formerly inhabited by former PSV football player Memphis Depay. He has turned it into his own little ‘castle’. High above the city and still right in the middle of it. He would at least like to live here for the next ten years. He is very much looking forward to the moment he will receive the keys on November 1st.
Another interesting project are his offices at the head of Eindhoven harbor. The civil servants in these offices saw every shipment arrive and all documents pass. Now Pavan’s desk is right in this historic spot. The building is listed as an official monument. This Italian really had to have these offices. Nothing else would do.
He has also somehow managed to get hold of the building where a gentlemen’s cub used to meet in Eindhoven in 1904. He’s renting it for the moment and is thinking about the right new purpose for the building.
Pavan himself is part of the old Italian aristocracy. That background is an important part of his identity. He is a Marquis, member of a family with an illustrious past. There are stories about the contacts with the notorious Machiavelli family. According to rumour, the Pavan family bested them more than once. The Marquis has the traditional right to have his own army. Thankfully he has plenty of other things to do.
“The Netherlands is famous for being very safe and reliable. You can lead a reasonably relaxed life here. A good place to come live with your family,” opines Pavan. “In a relatively young city like Eindhoven there are many interesting developments. People here have shown strong character in difficult times. There is a lot to be proud of. The way the city has developed from a collection of villages to an international hub for high tech and expats in the Netherlands, to name just a few things. This happened very quickly. In light of human history it actually happened in almost no time at all. At the speed of light, so to speak.”
Pavan leans back in his chair and talks about how the economy in Eindhoven is growing at such an amazing pace that it sometimes scares him. At the same time he is of course also pleased. “It is going so quickly that I’m sometimes afraid people are earning too much. I see lot of Porsches and Rolls Royce’s with young men behind the wheels. For the first time in my life I am complaining about this a little bit. We need more permanence and more culture.” He sees too little value accredited to the culture and history of Eindhoven. As a great lover of culture, Pavan is prepared to play a role in this. He reacts to what comes into his path. Maybe he can influence the speed or the quality of investment. “Italy and The Netherlands have had a good relationship throughout the centuries. In the Middle Ages Italians bankers came to the Netherlands for business,” Pavan says. Usually they were from the north of Italy and got into the money market using a literal market stand. In Italian this kind of stand was called ‘banca’. The Dutch word for bank came from that. Once they were established in the cities, the Italians received licenses to run loan businesses. They loaned money to private citizens and government. The dukes of Brabant also made use of their services. The interest was steep: at least 50 percent and sometimes even eighty percent. Ka ching!
Pavan has also noticed that quite a few Italian academics have become active in Eindhoven. “The TU/e has about four Italian professors working here for Applied Physics, Mechanical Engineering and Robotics.” The investor spent himself a number of years in Boston on the east coast of the USA, where he studied for a PhD and an MBA at Boston University.
But ordinary Italians are also part of the city’s background. An old family of Italian ice cream makers with the ‘Firenze’ (Florence) business was already making waves in Eindhoven in the fifties when they came out one sunny afternoon and gave all the factory workers an ice cream. At the moment the fourth generation is working in the business.
Paolo Pavan has lived in The Netherlands since 2012. A year later he married a Dutch woman. “I came here for the first time in 2006. I’ve always loved The Netherlands and found a lovely wife soon. Also I liked the logical rules in this country,” he declares. “For me it is an ideal place to live. For the time being.”
“Italians have a lot to offer the economy and business culture,” Pavan thinks. “You can’t get anything done in business if you don’t eat together.” A good way to communicate and really get to know each other better. “Life itself can make an important difference in business. I like to invite friends and contacts over at least every month to have good wine and cheese. I ask a good cook to make us something tasty. We can relax a little, talk about things. This is the most natural thing in the world for me. I let people that I like into my home and into my world. My safe place so to speak. The Dutch are sometimes bowled over by this. Something they have never experienced before.” According to Pavan, these friendships can really make a difference to doing business well.
As a businessman he wants to show how to make a good deal with Italians. But he imagines the big open windows in The Netherlands might have something to do with Dutch national character. He recalls that the Dutch invented the stock market, while the Italians dreamt up the word bankruptcy. But on the other hand, the Dutch were right there at the first bubble in the stock market.
The Dutch and the Italians can make the best combinations in business, showing both reliability and ‘la dolce vita’ or ‘joie de vivre’. “If we work together we’re gonna be huge,” says Pavan with great enthusiasm. “Bringing energy together. That is exactly want we want to do.” In the meantime, Pavan is working on the relocation of wealthy Italian families and students in Eindhoven. Setting up new companies and Dutch subsidiaries for companies, export management and moving head offices. “Not all Italians have pizzerias. I bring wealthy families and good investors to The Netherlands. Eindhoven represents the new Dutch economy. That’s where I what to invest.”
ORIGINAL ARTICLE IN FRITS MAGAZINE|TEXT PAULA VAN DE RIET|PHOTOS FREEKJE GROENEMANS
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