Van 't Wout
Father Willem van 't Wout started his financial career during World War II, stealing yeast from the occupying Germans and selling it to a bakery. In the 1950s he started international trading in scrap metal. He specialises in 'politically complicated countries', as they put it. After his first encounter with Fidel Castro, he bought a large amount of nickel, the most important export product of Cuba. Yet, it is precisely these difficulties that opened opportunities to do business where no one else dared tread. Eventually, it all paid off.
Quote lists van 't Wout as the 384th wealthiest Dutchman. In 1991 he was elected Rotterdammer of the year. He is the official Cuba expert retained by Dutch "behind the news" television show Netwerk. As of 2006, he is preparing to retire and hand over his business to his relatives. Austin and Mike each continue in the metal trade. In 2006 he closed a deal to deliver 200 used Rotterdam city buses to Cuba, where Dutch buses have been in use for years. Another son-in-law exports food products to Cuba. Indiana Finance had a turnover of 1.5 billion euro in 2005, 30% of which is accounted for trade with Cuban.
Castro's 2006 illness did not influence the business, since trade is conducted largely with Cuban ministers, according to van 't Wout, who believes that Castro's passing will have little effect on his firm. The Van 't Wouts say they are apolitical. "As a trade organisation you can't really bring about a regime change."
Daughter Merel is a fashion designer and has served in the past as Castro's personal tailor, convincing him to occasionally change from his customary military attire to a business suit. She says green doesn't suit him at all. Unlike her father, who calls him 'señor presidente', she addresses Castro as 'Fidel' and amicably slaps him on the shoulder, an attitude that he liked so much it helped convince him of her views.
The van 't Wouts were the only Dutch representatives invited for Castro's birthday in 2006.
- "Cuban trade will continue without Fidel", in Volkskrant, a Dutch daily newspaper
- "Bartering fridges for Cuban nickel", in Algemeen Dagblad, a Dutch daily newspaper