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Palo Alto 33

Xavier Verellen

"A Life Long Learning Journey"

Xavier Verellen

My biggest realizations? Establishing a winning culture at our Dutch venture and being responsible for the most profitable period at De Persgroep between 2000 and 2010.


After obtaining a master in applied economics and a master in accountancy and finance, Xavier Verellen travelled the world.

At he beginning of his career he started in 1993 his own media company specialized in second hand cars. In terms of management lessons, this was probably the toughest period for Xavier Verellen but also the most rewarding. Two times he was ready to declare bankruptcy, but by changing his strategy, he finally got through. Xavier Verellen sold the company in 1998 to the biggest player in the world : Autotrader. In this period he developed skills which enabled him to start a business from zero with scarce resources and to develop efficient processes to survive and later to thrive.
Main responsibilities: General Manager of a magazine for second hand cars and a minitel electronic exchange platform for trading cars. Head of a salesteam of five people. I was responsible for making the magazine to selling to our largest customers. Also responsible for the marketing and administration accompanied by a half time secretary.
Proven results: Built this company from O euro turnover to 750.000 euro turnover and sold it to the Autotrader group (Guardian, UK) for almost 1.000.000 €. Was a small shareholder.

Xavier Verellen started his career De Persgroep, Belgian leading mediacompany as marketing manager for the magazines of the group and later Het Laatste Nieuws, Flanders best selling newspaper. In that period he learnt the art of marketing
Main responsibilities: Responsible for the marketing of a few monthlies in an effort to grow sales and readership.
Proven results: Readers marketing results : Netwerk, a computer magazine grew from 9.000 copies to 56.000 copies. Outside, an adventure magazine from 8.500 to 17.000 copies. Accompanied the launch of a new magazine Autowereld.

He was rewarded with the function of Commercial Director of Het Laatste Nieuws in April 2002 and in 2005 Commercial Director of De Persgroep Belgium and was admitted to the Group Committee of De Persgroep Holding, which is the platform where major strategic decisions are made. During that time he founded and developed Belgian biggest website and developed the merchandising business which added yearly more than 5 million € contribution.
Main responsibilities: Responsible for the turnover which is composed of 62 % from readers revenues and 38 % from advertising revenues. Marketing the brands in the group and coaching the different salesteams. Managing the commercial team of about 125 people. Member of the Group Committee from 2004 which takes the major strategic decisions. Founder and developer of in 2003 and of in 2005.
Proven results:
Financial results: In 2003 and 2004 we had the highest net profit ever in the history of the company. Turnover grew from 85 million euro to 125 million euro.
Commercial results: In 2004 we broke the barrier of 1.000.000 readers for the first time with Het Laatste Nieuws. During my first four years with Het Laatste Nieuws we grew our readership with more than 300.000 to 1.064.000 readers, while our competitors numbers stalled and declined. In 2005 we were chosen in Belgium as medium of the year, an honor bestowed only on real topbrands. In 2004 we developed the fastest growing internet site ever in the history of the internet in Belgium. grew from 94.000 visitors a month to 733.000 a month and became marketleader.

When De Pergroep acquired in 2009 its biggest venture to date, PCM of the Netherlands, Xavier Verellen became Chief Commercial Officer for the whole group in Belgium and the Netherlands. It becomes a resounding success and De Persgroep remains almost the only Belgian company to succeed in the tough competitive Dutch market. Xavier Verellen was responsible for transferring the sales and marketing culture of the company in a market that was collapsing. Today it is the most profitable part of De Persgroep Holding. After four years in this job, he parted ways, based on a difference in vision after 16 exciting years.
Main responsibilities: responsible for the turnover of 600 million euro including newspapers Het Laatste Nieuws, De Morgen, de Volkskrant and Algemeen Dagblad and all the digital properties (+ 350 sales people, + 250 marketing and operations) between 2009 and 2013 Founder of De Persgroep Digital (which was subsequently discontinued in December 2012)
Proven results: responsible for marketing and sales, we built a Dutch company with its own management team that is running a profitable business (EBITDA + 15% coming from 0 %). We stabilized sales of the newspapers while the market fell 5% every year. We outperformed the advertising market on average3 %, compared to our competitors year by year. De Persgroep Digital went from -3 M Ebita to +2 M Ebita

Management Courses

2011 : Executive Program Strategy and Organization - STANFORD PALO ALTO CA
Great interactive classes with 35 executives from around the world on issues like growth, changing environments and the ensuing strategies to deal with it. Lots of time was spent on the organization and culture of the organization to deal with these changes.

2008 : Leadership for post merger integration – MC EUROPE BRUSSELS
Delivers an insight in how companies should proceed in a merger or acquisition. The issues of culture, values, communication and processes and priorities were tackled. Took this course in light of the Dutch acquisition of PCM by De Persgroep.

2004-2005 : Coaching and Consulting for Change – INSEAD PARIS
Course under supervision of Manfred Kets De Vries on leadership, emotional intelligence, teamwork and change management. Learning to use tools like the 360 feedback. Great interaction with international executives. Especially strong on issues like functional and dysfunctional leadership and very thorough look at EI and psychological aspects of the workforce and the organization. Special focus on research “from good to great” by Jim Collins for making companies outstanding.

2003-2006 : Mastering People Management – MAILLEUX BRUSSELS INHOUSE
Course under supervision of Anthony Jacobs on 4 issues : situational selfleadership, situational leadership 2, building high performance teams and change management, interesting course which is based on the principles of Ken Blanchard, Spencer Johnson, …

2002 : Leading the Effective Salesforce – WHARTON/INSEAD PHILADELPHIA
Practical course on issues like the ideal sales force, compensation packages communication with salespeople, hiring tips, ideal salesprofiles, case studies, … Best practical course I ever followed. Implemented most of their ideas as they were tested with the biggest salesforces of the world like l’Oreal, Merck, ….

1999-2000 : Middle Management Program – VLERICK GENT
Overview of the management process, financial management, operations, marketing, negotiating skills. Course passes through all the aspects of management for medium sized and big companies.

1991-1992 : Master of accountancy and finance – COOREMANS BRUSSELS
Practical courses of very high standards on issues like financial and cost accounting, external and internal auditing, Capital Budgeting, Interactive Financial Markets. 2 years of evening courses while I taught economics and accounting in a secondary school. Distinction in first and second year.

General Courses

1985 – 1989 : Master of Applied Economics – UFSIA ANTWERP
Courses ranging from macro-economy, languages, psychology, statistics and mathematics, etc. Distinction in the first, third and fourth year.

1978 – 1984 : Latin Sciences – ONZE-LIEVE-VROUW COLLEGE ANTWERPEN
Classic education in one of Antwerp’s most well known schools.

Hobbies and Interests

A thorough joy to read and learn from books and articles about every aspect of life. From management to politics and economics to behavioral psychology. Avid reader of The Figaro, The Times, NRC and De Volkskrant. Following our own titles going from Dag Allemaal to Joepie to Het Parool. Specialist literature like Wired, HBR, Advertising Age and The Economist or management books of leading economic thinkers.

Happily married with two children. Travelling with them around the world. We try to raise them with an open mind.

Always in for a challenge. I accepted a triathlon invitation which I “finished”, Ironman 70/3 Antwerp in 2011 and 2012 and Ironman Nice long distance in 2011.