Baroness bows out at Concentra
Tony Baert, the baroness chairwoman of Concentra, publishers of Het Belang van Limburg, last week stepped down from her post at the age of 80, after 56 years in effective control of the company.
Born Antonia Martens, she was the niece of Frans Theelen, the son of the founder of Concentra. In 1953, Theelen asked Martens and her husband Jan Baert to take over the running of the company. Baert, director of the Brugsche Courant newspaper, was seen as Theelen’s natural heir, in the absence of children of his own.
When Theelen died in 1971, the Baerts bought out the rest of the family, turning their effective sole control into an economic reality. Tony Baert exercised an important influence within the company, earning herself the nickname “the empress of Hasselt”.
Jan Baert died in 1986, and his son Peter took over, turning Concentra into a multimedia group, swallowing up the Gazet van Antwerpen and, in a revolutionary move, launching the free newspaper Metro in 2000. Concentra now also owns a series of local TV stations, jobs weekly Vacature and Radio Nostalgie.
In 2000, Concentra merged with the holding corporation Imperial Invest, but the Baert family retained a 64% stake. The two groups demerged in 2003. Peter Baert withdrew from running the company in 2000, reportedly for personal reasons that included clashes with his mother, who continued to exercise her influence from the chair.
Peter Baert’s place was taken by three men: Willy Lenaers now replaces Tony Baert as chairman, and will be replaced as COO by Marc Vangeel. Robert Ceuppens remains as managing director.