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Frank Van Wezel Honorary Doctor of Business Administration, 2013
Bio | Citation

Frank Van Wezel is the founder and chairman of Hi-Tec Sports plc, an international business with its UK office just down the road in Southend-on-Sea.

Frank was a keen squash and tennis player, and it was his enjoyment of these sports which inspired his original shoe. He listened to the other members of his local squash club complaining constantly about their footwear, so he set about creating a light and comfortable specialist squash shoe. Building on his success, Frank went on to set up Hi-Tec Sports in 1974.

Hi-Tec now employs around 400 people, distributes in 85 countries, and achieves a global turnover of over $250 million. There are subsidiary companies in 7 countries and distributors in 78 other ones. Hi-Tec is ranked fourth among global rugged outdoor footwear brands and the Magnum uniform boot is enjoying fast-growing worldwide demand. However, that first squash shoe is still available - having sold more than 19 million pairs.

The business is now very much a family concern, with Frank's son Ed as CEO and his two sons-in-law as executives.

In recognition of services rendered to the international squash game, Frank was elected a Life Vice-President of the UK Squash Rackets Association in 1998. For his services to the UK and Global Sports Industry, he was recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the British Sports Trade.

His interest in business development and the nurturing of potential were recognised when he became a founder member of the Faculty Advisory Board of the School of Management at the University of Bath.

He is also Chair of the Stichting Nyenrode Fund, a fundraising organisation for his alma mater, the only private business university in the Netherlands. Indeed, his Chairman's statement this year asked the international business community to tap into the young, vibrant and creative talent currently available on the employment market.


Areas Of Interest: Business, Sports
Faculty: Lord Ashcroft International Business School
Citation:

Vice Chancellor, it is my pleasure to read the citation for Frank Van Wezel for the award of Doctor of Business Administration, honoris causa.

Frank Van Wezel is the founder and chairman of Hi-Tec Sports plc, an international business with its UK office just down the road in Southend-on-Sea.

Born and raised in the Netherlands, Frank was the youngest student in his year at Nyenrode Business University - surely a sign of the success that was to come! After graduating, he did his National Service in the Dutch Air Force before returning to his studies, this time in London and Paris. He then took a post with an agricultural-chemical company in Kenya, where he spent ten years, including a period in Zimbabwe and then returning to the UK.

Frank was a keen squash and tennis player, and it was his enjoyment of these sports which inspired his original shoe. He listened to the other members of his local squash club complaining constantly about their footwear, so he set about creating a light and comfortable specialist squash shoe. Building on his success, Frank went on to set up Hi-Tec Sports in 1974.

Trying to market his shoes in North America proved somewhat problematic, however. Frank's shoes were labelled visibly with the sport they were designed for - and in America, squash was something you ate and no one played badminton. The hurdle was overcome in an unexpected and ultimately very profitable way when a retailer commented on the need for a lightweight hiking shoe. Surely, this UK manufacturer of lightweight sports shoes could meet that need? It could, and it did!

So from small beginnings in an Essex squash club grew one of the world's leading sports footwear businesses. Hi-Tec now employs around 400 people, distributes in 85 countries, and achieves a global turnover of over $250 million. There are subsidiary companies in 7 countries and distributors in 78 other ones. Hi-Tec is ranked fourth among global rugged outdoor footwear brands and the Magnum uniform boot is enjoying fast-growing worldwide demand. However, that first squash shoe is still available - having sold more than 19 million pairs.

Hi-Tec floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1988, but Frank took it back to private again in 2000, having felt stifled by the lack of freedom and short-term profit imperatives of public trading. The business is now very much a family concern, with Frank's son Ed as CEO and his two sons-in-law as executives.

Frank has now been living in Essex for over 40 years and continues to enjoy tennis, golf, soccer, skiing and running. He has strong connections with local sports clubs, being a long-term director of Southend United FC and a sponsor of Southend Rugby Club. Far from forgetting his origins, he also financially supports a couple of soccer clubs in the Netherlands.

In recognition of services rendered to the international squash game, Frank was elected a Life Vice-President of the UK Squash Rackets Association in 1998. For his services to the UK and Global Sports Industry, he was recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the British Sports Trade.

His interest in business development and the nurturing of potential were recognised when he became a founder member of the Faculty Advisory Board of the School of Management at the University of Bath.

He is also Chair of the Stichting Nyenrode Fund, a fundraising organisation for his alma mater, the only private business university in the Netherlands. Indeed, his Chairman's statement this year asked the international business community to tap into the young, vibrant and creative talent currently available on the employment market.

Vice Chancellor, for his encouragement of education, young talent, grass-roots sports and business development, it is my pleasure to present Frank Van Wezel for the award of Doctor of Business Administration, honoris causa.


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