Leo Leander Bekaert (born in Zwevegem 28 November 1855, died in Zwevegem 25 October 1936) was the founder of Bekaert N.V., one of the world leaders in steel wire products.
He was a shopkeeper in Zwevegem in his early adulthood, until he founded Bekaert N.V. in 1880 after he recognised the need for local farmers to have barbed wire fencing to secure their cows. He did not invent barbed wire but he was very quick off the mark. Barbed wire was patented in 1873 and he founded his company just a few years later. You can read about the history of barbed wire here :
Bekaert is a technology-driven business which produces and markets a wide range of products based on metal-forming and coating technologies. The group's current activities are built around four business units: Wire, Merchant Products Europe, Steel Cord and the fast-growing Bekaert Advanced Materials.
He was burgomaster (Mayor) of Zwevegem from 1921-1926 (his son Leon then took over until his death in 1961). When Leo Leander died, he was succeeded in the company by his son Léon Antoine Bekaert (born in Zwevegem 9 December 1891, died in Zwevegem 19 December 1961) who was really the one who developed the company into the world leader it is today and therefore probably deserves most of the credit.
However, without his father's vision, who knows what would have happened ? He expanded the family venture into a global company. He was President of the League of Christian Employers (1934-1961) and President of the Belgian league of the metallurgical industry (Fabrimetal) from 1946 up to 1952, after which he accepted the chairmanship of the Federation of Belgian Enterprises. From 1938 to 1961 he was regent of the National Bank of Belgium. In 1958, he was one of the the co-founders of the permanent international secretariat of the UNIAPAC in Brussels.
Léon Antoine Bekaert was in turn succeeded by his son Anton (Baron) Bekaert who is one of the richest men in Europe with an estimated fortune of 761 million Euros. He is still a member of the Board of Directors of Bekaert N.V.
If you have ever been skiing in Europe, chances are that you were transported up the mountain in a ski lift suspended from one of Bekaert's steel rope wires. Their products are also used in the heat shield of the Space Shuttle.
But the main success of Bekaert comes from the steel wires used in automotive tyres and the production of barbed wire fences. If you thought Belgian beer and chocolates were Belgium's top products, think again, the plain, boring barbed wire fence is your answer.
Bekaert is a technology-driven business which produces and markets a wide range of products based on metal-forming and coating technologies. The group's current activities are built around four business units:
Merchant Products Europe
Bekaert has grown from a small manufacturing and trading company into a global group with its head office in Belgium. Starting in Western Europe, the group's rapid internationalisation soon extended to Latin America, North America and Asia, fuelled by the burgeoning demand for steel cord for radial tyre reinforcement.
Bekaert now has over 80 production centres world-wide and an extensive network of sales offices and agencies. In 2000 the consolidated companies and participating interests generated sales in excess of EUR 2.7 billion and employed 17202 people.
In 2000, Bekaert moved into solar cell production, a good example of a new application of one of the wide range of coating technologies at Bekaert's disposal.
You can read all about the history of the company here :