The secretive family of Dutch billionaires who used to control Ray-Ban got as much as R59 billion richer this year, and no one knows how they'll spend the money

Business Insider US
Eyewear giant EssilorLuxottica purchased Ray-Ban maker Grandvision from HAL, the trust controlled by the Van der Vorm family, for $8.1 billion in July.
Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • The Van der Vorms, a secretive family of Dutch billionaires, made as much as $4 billion (R59 billion) off the sale of Ray-Ban owner GrandVision in July - but no one knows what they will do with the cash, Bloomberg's Ruben Munsterman and Benjamin Stupples reported on October 30.
  • The family built its $11.2 billion (R166 billion) fortune from Holland America Line, a cruise line, which they sold to Carnival for $625 million in 1988, according to The New York Times.
  • The family is extremely secretive: Both the public documents filed by their trust and the website of their charitable foundation refer to family members only by their initials.
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A secretive family of Dutch billionaires will end 2019 with as much as an extra $4 billion (R59 billion) in their family trust after having sold Ray-Ban owner GrandVision to another eyewear company this summer.

The Van der Vorms built the majority of their $11.2 billion (R166 billion) fortune off a cruise line that Willem Van der Vorms sold to Carnival for $625 million in 1988, according to The New York Times.

In July, The Van der Vorms sold GrandVision to Franco-Italian eyewear empire EssilorLuxottica for 7.3 billion euros, Bloomberg reported at the time. At the time, the family owned 77% of GrandVision and profited as much as $4 billion from the sale.

The profits from the sale will be put into HAL, the publicly traded trust controlled by the Van der Vorms, according to Bloomberg. As for where the money will go, there's currently little clarity: The family could use it to pay dividends to shareholders, reinvest in something else, or use it to retire and become full-time philanthropists, ABN Amro Bank NV analyst Thijs Berkelder told Bloomberg.

The last time the family had major windfall - $625 million from the sale of the Holland America Line in 1988 - they used it to start HAL, according to Dutch News.

Representatives of HAL did not respond to Business Insider's request for comment on how the funds will be used.

The family is 'unusually secretive' for its level of wealth

Analysts told Bloomberg that both HAL and the Van der Vorm family are unusually secretive for their level of wealth and do not respond to requests for information. Both HAL's public documents and the website of their charitable foundation refer to family members only by their initials.

The little that is known about the family's finances was revealed by the Panama Papers, a trove of documents leaked from a Central American law firm in 2016 that revealed the intimate financial dealings of 12 country leaders, 128 public officials, and 29 Forbes-listed billionaires, Bloomberg reported. The leak revealed that HAL also maintained a headquarters in Curacao, a Dutch Caribbean island known for using low tax rates to attract wealthy foreigners, according to Deloitte.

The new owners of GrandVision, EssilorLuxottica, will add Ray-Ban to an already expansive portfolio of eyewear brands that includes Coach New York, Armani Exchange, Burberry, Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Tiffany & Co., Tory Burch, Versace, and Brooks Brothers, Oakley and Foster Grant, according to its website. The company also owns the Lenscrafters and Pearle Vision chains of eyeglass stores.

The Van der Vorms are not the only billionaires to see their investments in the fashion and beauty space pay off in 2019. Growing Chinese demand for luxury goods has raised the share prices of Bernard Arnault's LVMH, Francois Pinault's Kering, and Francoise Bettencourt Meyers' L'Oréal, adding $53 billion (R789 billion) to the French billionaires' combined fortunes in 2019.

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