The discreet charm of Henokiens

The discreet charm of Henokiens

Loïc Grasset, special envoy to Venice


This ultra-closed club which brings together family businesses and at least bicentennial European and Japanese companies, meets once a year for an annual congress. Focus on a cenacle unique in the world.

Booms, gondolas and prosecco… The eleventh prize Leonardo DeVinci was awarded this Thursday in Venice, under the paneling and gilding of the Hotel Monaco and Grand Canal, by Mayor Luigi Brugnaro to Giulio Pedrollo, general manager of Pedrollo, flagship of Italian industry and paragon of family entrepreneurship. This prize, co-founded by the “Hénokiens” Association and the Château du Clos Lucé, aims to promote family entrepreneurship as a model of growth. Like the values ​​carried by its creators. To put it simply: tradition is good and families I love you!

This ceremony is above all a rare opportunity to discover this ultra-closed and very discreet circle. At the antipodes of start-ups and “the fast-economy”. The Henokiens association takes its name from Enoch, father of Methuselah and great-grandfather of Noah. This biblical character, according to the book of Genesis, lived 365 years before God “took him to place him in heaven. By extension, Enoch, a symbol of longevity and a privileged relationship with the Almighty, is invoked here to stigmatize multi-centenary family businesses – at least two hundred years of existence – which are doing well financially and are still managed by one of the heirs. of the founder.

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Created in 1981

In fact, the Henokiens Association was created in 1981 by Gérard Glotin, CEO of the spirits group, Marie Brizard, who has since left the club. It brings together 51 member companies, established in 9 countries: 13 Italian, 14 French, 10 Japanese, 4 Swiss, 4 German, 2 Dutch, 2 Belgian, 1 English and 1 Austrian. France is therefore very well represented with a very heterogeneous panel ranging from Burgundy wine merchants Louis Latour to the Peugeot Frères family holding company, including the tableware and culinary porcelain manufacturer Revol. This restricted circle, which is renewed only by cooptations – one or two units per exercise maximum – only meets, once a year, somewhere in the world for this great annual mass. Even if informal meetings are sometimes organized between heirs – “next generation” in Henokian language – on themes such as: operating your succession well or how to impregnate your mark on a company. But beware ! This is not an idle daddy’s boy superclub. Quite the contrary. Above all, Henokiens encourage the desire to sustain businesses over the very long term, to continue to manage and develop a family company rather than choosing a life as an annuitant by selling it to an LVMH, Diageo or related company.

“What brings us together is a common vision: traditional values ​​and solidarity,” explains Alberto Marenghi, president of Henokiens. Ca quadra accorte runs the Cartiera Mantovana company in Mantua, founded in 1615 and specializing in stationery and cardboard. “When my father died in 1996, I was 19 years old. All my Henokiens friends told me: Hang on! Think about the cultural heritage left by your ancestors, your family,” he says. Since then, he has multiplied his turnover by 25, celebrated his 400th anniversary and embodies the seventeenth generation of Marenghi at the reins of the company.

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All have succeeded in preserving themselves from the appetites of multinationals

Like him, his peers have all succeeded in preserving themselves from the appetites of multinationals by relying on loyal family shareholders, thanks to a shareholders’ pact prohibiting the sale of shares outside the family. Among the members, well-known companies such as Carglass, owned by the Belgian D’Ieteren family and whose origins date back to 1805, Beretta, an Italian arms manufacturer since 1526. There are also Japanese companies, such as Hoshi, which manages a famous hotel at the foot of Mount Fuji. It is the oldest company of the association since its origin dates back to the year 718. The company has since seen 56 generations of the Mahito family succeed one another. They were joined by the Breton group Bolloré, just eligible since it has just celebrated its bicentenary.

Henokian companies have another characteristic. They knew how to renew themselves and change course when the situation forced them to do so. Thus, the company Van Eeghen & Co, created in 1662 in the trade sector, which subsequently also turned to banking operations and was launched in the 1990s on the functional food market. Let’s also mention the French company Catherineau, a newcomer to the club. When it was founded in 1750, it specialized in barrels, before developing a ship maintenance and repair activity and then embarking on the aeronautical sector from the 1960s. The company today furnishes the interior of business jets and yachts.

The best of the best of European family companies, is crowned with the Leonardo da Vinci prize

Each year, the “primus inter pares”, the best of the best of European family companies, is crowned with the Leonardo da Vinci prize. Its ambition: to promote family entrepreneurship as a model of dynamic, virtuous and sustainable growth. “We obviously reward companies that are much younger than the Henokiens but which already have a history, explains François Saint-Bris, whose family has owned Clos-Lucé, Leonardo da Vinci’s castle since 1855. They also know how to highlight the family and excel in their field. In the past, the Leonardo da Vinci Prize has rewarded sure values ​​such as the Austrian Swarovksi (2017) – jewelry and very high quality crystal, long-range optical instruments, molding tools – founded in 1895, the German Schwan-Stabilo (2018), kings of the “flashy” colored pen or the French Seb specialist in small household appliances (Seb is good) crowned in 2021.

The 2022 winner, Pedrollo Group, is a family business that works in the field of water extraction and transport and its transformation into energy. It is also one of the world leaders in water pumps Not very glamorous but, in its style, a real nugget, created in 1974 and already in the world top 3 in its sector. urges us to think about how to keep this family spirit and convince future generations to do the same, explains the big boss, Giulio Pedrollo who has already refused takeover offers of 1 billion euros. If she does not yet have a canonical age – not even fifty – Pedrollo is already a model for all “family businesses” in the world. Either, it is worth remembering, nearly eight out of ten companies in the world..

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