During a charity event in a huge tent at the Savarin restaurant in Rijswijk, exactly ten years ago, I sat next to millionaire Wim Zegwaard. Wim, who had recently died of cancer at the age of 78, had made his fortune by processing waste, opening sewers and real estate. We’ve known each other a bit from past festivals and as usual Zegwaard showed his generous side during the charity auction.
At one point – between two sessions of the menu – there was a pause for musical entertainment. Wim Siegward stood up and put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I’ll smoke a cigarette, but then I won’t come back. Then you know it, don’t think I’m dead in the corner somewhere.” He saw the surprise on my face and then laughed: “On ADO I have all kinds of people in my box. They don’t even know I’m lubricated. When I came right after the break, no one noticed.”
As he was getting out of the tent, I got up and followed him. “Smoking too?” he asked. No, I wanted to discuss something else with him. As the editor-in-chief of Den Haag Centraal, I had just witnessed the bankruptcy of my brainchild. Together with three wealthy gentlemen I managed to make a fresh start in the same week, but we still need six contributors of €25,000 each to be able to move forward for two years. Or not wim…? “
“Is it a one-off, that 25 thousand? You won’t knock again in six months?” he said. “No, of course not. If that happens, we lure a dead horse,” I replied. Siegward took another drag on his cigarette. “Okay, I’ll fix it tomorrow. Now I’m going to ADO.”
I was a little hesitant. Wim Zegwaard wasn’t exactly impeccable demeanor. Wild stories circulated about him. But as a seasoned journalist, you know that not all wild stories are true. To memorize the journal, I had already teamed up with a high-ranking Zen Buddhist who was constantly uttering spiritual nonsense. I didn’t have the luxury of being too picky.
Wim Siegward, as a shareholder, will not interfere with the newspaper once. And when I left the day management with a struggle after a year and a half, he called me daily to give spontaneous advice and even offered me his 10% share. I thanked him kindly, wanted to get rid of my 10%, after which he donated his interest to the same company. He didn’t want anything related to The Hague Centre.
Zegwaard was a man of color with diverse faces. He can be very kind, friendly and helpful, but he is also very tough and stubborn. The story goes that he fired a relative from his company after learning that the man was returning the money. “I never want to see you again.” A year later, Wim is surprised to find the young man in newsreel photos in a chaotic state during the first Gulf War. Through a questionable French agency, Siegward engages two former legionnaires to pick up the boy and bring him home safely.
Crying, the Prodigal Son came to Uncle Wim’s office to thank him from the bottom of his heart. Wim must have looked at him closely and would have said, “I told you I never wanted to see you again.” “Yes, but you saved my life!” Wim said to him, “Yeah, I don’t want you dead. I just don’t have to see you again. Now get out.”
Szeguard’s clever, but also tough, leadership became apparent when the new ADO stadium was in danger of being canceled due to insufficient parking in the area. Most of the adjacent lawns were owned by Wim Zegwaard, who once wanted to build houses there. This plan failed, because the land had an agricultural destination and what Siegward tried with the municipality of The Hague, it was not possible to change the destination. So he let Wim let his horses graze there. Keeping miniature horses was a great hobby.
The municipality of The Hague must have knocked on Siegaard’s door sometime around 2005. Those of his own lawns, people wanted to take over to create parking lots. This is not possible, these lawns have an agricultural destination. My horses graze there.” Siegguard, with a devilish smile on his face, pulled everything that could be dragged out.
So it was with his expensive car, the rare over six-meter Maybach 62S Landaulet. The car is not suitable for normal parking on the street. And the use of two cycles is not allowed. Zegwaard started the fight with parking management. His car was allowed to join the Dutch road network, he paid a fortune in road tax and if necessary, he would litigate to the European Court to expand all parking spaces in The Hague. From that moment on, Siegward left his driver on the nearby sidewalk, and if the parking guard passed by, he continued to be silent.
The last time I saw Wim Zegwaard, I was in a precarious situation. I had parked my bike on a balcony in downtown The Hague. When I wanted to go home, my bike turned out to be fully integrated by a whole series of other bikes. I pressed inside, but on one occasion I dropped a bike from its stand and the whole distance started moving. Half lying down, half standing I was almost mired in bikes.
I couldn’t go anywhere, but I still saw how the whole balcony watched, howling with laughter, what had happened to me. As if they are watching funny home videos. Only one man stood up to help me. That was also Wim Siegward.