Alfred Heineken, the king of Dutch beer or how to suffer the most expensive kidnapping in Europe

“I’m not selling beer, I’m selling joy,” used to say billionaire Alfred Henry Heineken, the Dutch beer king who died two decades ago at the age of 78. Commonly known as ‘Freddy’, this successful businessman born in Amsterdam in 1923 went down in history not only for his forward-thinking business, but for enduring one of the costliest kidnappings in history.

Heineken was from the beginning a family project started in 1864 by its founder Gerard Adriaan Heineken. His son Henry Pierre followed in his footsteps from 1917 to 1940, and a year later, in 1941, Alfred entered, although at that time the brand no longer belonged to the family. However, in 1946, legend has it that ‘Freddy’ rented a Rolls-Royce, parked it in front of the bank and, with this coup, got the £122,000 loan he needed to buy back the shares that his father had sold. the.

Alfred Heineken was passionate about everything related to the world of advertising. Trained in the US, the young ‘Freddy’ had just put into practice the teachings he received about the importance of marketing in the business world. Since then he was already accredited, according to his biographers, to turn the small family business into the multinational it is today. But the idea that the business should never leave the family shelter was also consolidated in his mind.

He was the one who gave the green color to all the brand’s products and the one who invented the company’s starry logo. On January 1, 1968, the first Heineken advertisement appeared on Dutch television, a preview of what the brand has been touting for all these years. And the fact is that if all their ads, old and new, have something in common, it is that they sell joy, wasting fun wherever you go with a Heineken. All this has made the Dutch brand one of the most visually recognized thanks to its advertising campaigns.

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Youtube Video

One of Alfred’s goals was to create a square-shaped bottle. It was an idea that he came up with in 1960 when he visited his brewery in Curaçao, a small Caribbean island belonging to the Dutch crown. There he observed that many of the bottles end up accumulating on the island’s beaches due to the lack of awareness of the inhabitants in terms of recycling. He then thought that all those empty bottles could be turned into bricks and help solve housing problems in the Third World. Unfortunately, the idea was not put into practice, since the directors of the company did not consider it compatible with the prestige of the brand.

a kidnapping movie

On November 9, 1983, 60-year-old Alfred Heineken was kidnapped by five masked men at gunpoint as he left his company headquarters in the heart of Amsterdam. His 57-year-old driver tried to intervene and the kidnappers took him away too. Heineken never felt overwhelmed by his kidnapping, despite the fact that it was extended to 21 days when it was originally going to last 48 hours. “That man had a very strong character. It’s as if he were some kind of psychologist,” said Van Hout, the band’s leader.

After three weeks kidnapped, Heineken and his driver were released with a ransom of 35 million Dutch guilders (about 17 million euros), thus becoming the most expensive kidnapping in all of Europe. All this event inspired the world of cinema to make two films based on the kidnapping: The Kidnapping of Alfred Heinken (2011) and The Heineken Affair (2015). The most expensive in history belongs to the Argentine brothers and businessmen Juan and Jorge Born, who were kidnapped in September 1974 by the Montoneros guerrillas, for whom a ransom of 60 million dollars was paid in 1975.

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One of the largest fortunes in the Netherlands

Little was known about Alfred Heineken after his kidnapping. He considerably reduced his public appearances and practically did not give interviews again. In 1988, he considered that his daughter was ready to take on responsibilities, and the future heiress was appointed a member of the Heineken management team, and a year later she retired from the Executive Board in 1989, although she maintained a stake in the company until her death. death in 2002.

By the time of his resignation as chairman of the board in 1989, Alfred had transformed Heineken from a brand that was primarily known in the Netherlands into a brand recognized throughout the world. At the time of his death on January 3, 2022, Heineken was one of the richest people in the Netherlands, with a net worth of 9.5 billion guilders, about 4.6 billion euros.

After his death, his daughter Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken became part of the company’s board of directors. Not only did she inherit her father’s fortune, but she controlled a 50% share of the family business. And it is that in 1952 her father created Heineken Holdings to guarantee control of the company, the independence of the brand and protect it against hostile takeover attempts.

Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken currently owns a 25% majority stake in the world’s second largest brewer, Heineken NV. she and she is the richest person in the Netherlands, with a net worth of €14.7 billion as of May 2021, according to the Forbes Billionaires List.

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