Ernst Jan

Circuit Park Zandvoort

Hans Ernst served as the director and owner of Circuit Park Zandvoort for over twenty years. In the search for his successors, a diverse array of interested parties emerged, ranging from entrepreneurs in the real estate sector to those in entertainment. When the ideal candidate seemed elusive, Hans opted to exercise patience. Remarkably, two years later, the deal was eventually finalized.

Hans Ernst

Hans Ernst, a former racer, knew the Zandvoort circuit on the back of his hand when he assumed the role of circuit director in 1988. As the circuit owner, Ernst served as the driving force behind Zandvoort circuit for over 25 years. With his insight, decisiveness, and entrepreneurial courage, he adeptly navigated the circuit through challenging circumstances, strategically securing its future both in terms of sporting competitiveness and business viability.

For Hans, there was only one party entrusted with his legacy: racing enthusiasts Bernhard van Oranje and his business partner Menno de Jong. When illness threatened to disrupt Bernhard's involvement, Hans didn't hedge his bets but rather waited. Ferdi Kramer from Rembrandt M&A discusses the importance of out-of-the-box thinking, passion for one's endeavor, and a 'golden match'.

Ferdi stated, "Everything about Hans Ernst exudes motorsport. He divested his optician chain and joined the board of Circuit Park Zandvoort. Since 1993, he has succeeded in turning it into a thriving enterprise, truly a remarkable achievement. The Formula 1 era at the circuit came to an end in the late eighties. However, Hans Ernst more than compensated for this through his entrepreneurship and vision. He brought races from other classes, such as Formula 3 and DTM, to the venue and played a key role in initiating the historic Grand Prix. Additionally, he ensured excellent occupancy of the circuit's rental, including leasing to race teams for testing purposes and corporate events, all in the service of motorsport."

Here's the professional English translation: I'll never forget what Hans said when they left: 'I wish those guys well.' A simple sentence that encapsulates everything he cared about: the continuation of what he had built.

In the spring of 2012, when Hans turned 65, he approached Rembrandt to find a party capable of continuing his life's work. Naturally, one might consider circuit operators abroad and automotive brands. However, we also created an out-of-the-box longlist and engaged with approximately forty parties. Real estate entrepreneurs showed interest in the location, situated close to the sea. Hospitality entrepreneurs perhaps envisioned a unique event venue. Racing was a secondary concern for many prospective buyers. I witnessed Hans recoil...

Conversations were also held with Chapman Andretti Partners, two legendary names from Formula 1. Behind them were Menno de Jong and Bernhard van Oranje.

They proved to be a party, with the best interests of motorsport in the Netherlands. Bernhard is a successful driver in the Formula GT4 class, and both men understand the industry inside out. They were determined to prioritize Zandvoort as a motorsport location. Moreover, they are successful entrepreneurs who have already made their mark in IT and real estate.

I'll never forget what Hans Ernst said to me when they left: "I wish those boys well." A simple sentence containing everything he cared about: continuing what he had built. Things seemed to be going smoothly. Until we received a dramatic phone call one day before signing the letter of intent.

The decision by Hans Ernst to suspend the sales process was a significant one that only served to strengthen mutual respect between the parties involved.

In August 2013, Bernhard was diagnosed with lymph node cancer. Negotiations were temporarily halted by Chapman Andretti. Both Hans and Rembrandt suspended all negotiations with other parties as well. Fortunately, Bernhard recovered from the illness, and in early 2015, negotiations resumed. That process would take exactly one more year.

This pertains to a unique enterprise, situated in a remarkable location, within a distinct sector. Furthermore, Bernhard and De Jong are entrepreneurs adept at negotiation. The decision by Hans Ernst to suspend the sales process was a significant one that only served to strengthen the mutual respect between the parties involved.

A process of trust and a great deal of patience, in the fastest sport in the world.

Everyone was aware: there were still so many parties ready to take over the negotiation baton. So, we were by no means in a weak position. Hans fully trusted us in this regard. In conclusion, I can assure you that everyone is pleased with the outcomes of the process.

Ferdi, smiling: "A process of trust and a great deal of patience, in the fastest sport in the world."

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