Paul van Riessen: “I like to stick my nose into other people's affairs”

Paul van Riessen has been the editor-in-chief of Quote since January 2021, the title for which he started working in 2004. Van Riessen trained at the School of Journalism and worked, among other things, as an editor for television programs and as a political reporter at BNR Nieuwsradio. Paul is now an expert in the world of big money. He knows how wealth is earned and how it can then be spent in a pleasant way. Irene van de Laar speaks with the voyeur of the country's richest in the Prinsenzaal of De L'Europe in Amsterdam.
Karoly Effenberger

Text: Irene van de Laar

Statue: Karoly Effenberger

Why did you ever go into journalism?

“I already knew as a little boy that I wanted to do that, because I am quite curious by nature and I like to be at the front of the line where things are happening. I can't handle boredom well, and in journalism there is always something happening. When one fire is extinguished, I run to the next. You are constantly working on other stories. I like to stick my nose into other people's business. That never gets boring. In that sense I saw it well.”

You worked as a parliamentary reporter and studied journalism. There is not much in common with finance and entrepreneurship. What attracted you to Quote?

“I worked at BNR Nieuwsradio at the time as a parliamentary reporter. Once I figured out how the game in The Hague is played, the fun quickly disappeared. It was too slow for me, too dusty. A good time to switch to the business world. I had worked as a freelancer before Parameters I once conducted an interview with a sheikh from Dubai, who did not expect me to put his unpolished words on paper like that. So that led to quite a bit of legal hassle. Jort (Kelder, ed.) liked those angry lawyer faxes from the Emirates, so when I called him to ask if he had a job for me, I got a desk on Koningsplein a month later. And while my time at the Binnenhof previously drained me, I found a lot of energy in all those entrepreneurs we write about. You are kind of infected by the ambition of all those people who build something beautiful from nothing, who achieve great successes. And on the other hand, there are the crooks who want to enter the world of big money by coloring outside the lines. These are also fun to study. In addition, the atmosphere was great Parameters me very well. They are rascals with an us-against-the-world feeling.”

What story does Quote tell?

“The magazine says that success can be achieved. If you look at the Quote 500, for example, you'll see that about two-thirds of the people on that list started empty-handed. The path that follows, with trial and error, with clever tricks, with a lot of decisive action and a lot of optimism and perseverance, appeals to me. I also like to see that so many people who have achieved a certain degree of success still remain ambitious.Most Dutch people dream about white beaches, holidays and doing nothing. We write about people who can lose themselves in all that, but who still choose to keep playing, simply because they really like that game. I find it very fun and inspiring to see how that game is played, a bit like a sports reporter.”

In 2021 you took over from Sander Schimmelpenninck. What course are you sailing now?

“I admire success, but I am also not blind to the beauty of conflict,” my Twitter bio once said. So although I love hearing how entrepreneurs get this far, it has to be done Parameters of course not becoming a club magazine. When people exhibit strange behavior, we like to hold up a mirror to them. And we also like to explore the stories that people would rather not make public. Without the tenacity that you sometimes see in other journalists. We cherish our slightly mocking tone. Because ultimately, we like to make our readers laugh a little. Sander brought a little more opinion to the magazine in his time, he is more of an opinion machine. I am a little less so. But Parameters is not suddenly a different magazine since I took the helm. I have been working there for twenty years, also as a deputy for a long time. So I have been putting my stamp on it for years.”

The title Quote is a brand. So are Jort Kelder and Sander Schimmelpenninck. Is Paul van Riessen also a brand?

“No, I don't feel that way at all. I'm editor-in-chief number seven. I always say 007. Jort and Sander were outspoken types who enjoyed expressing their opinions, and still do. And they do that very well, because they are of course smart guys. I did something different and entered journalism much earlier to listen, watch and report. Not to constantly tell you what I think about things. So no, don't count on me becoming yet another clown in the circus of opinions. And it is certainly not my ambition to no longer be able to cross the street unnoticed.”

What image do the editors have of you?

“I think they recognize me as someone who works hard and is passionate about the business. As a cooperative foreman, that is. In any case, I am not the general who shouts out how things should be done somewhere far behind the lines, but I also like to climb onto the horse myself to hear the bullets whistling around my ears.”

What kind of audience are you targeting?

"Parameters focuses primarily on enterprising, ambitious people. Sometimes they have already managed to realize some of their dreams, but we are also popular with young people who like to learn from the arrivals that we portray in our magazine. Our readers can be assured that we will be critical where necessary. For example, when we see that entrepreneurs secretly cut corners in their pursuit of success. In those cases, we do not hesitate to show our teeth and, where necessary, bite through.”

To what extent is there a limit to the need for ever-increasing power?

“At a certain point, money is no longer an issue. In practice it doesn't matter much whether you have 20 or 30 million. These people are much more concerned with the game. They want to win, and they like the idea that they are the smartest, they like to grow their company and get bigger. That money is no longer a motivation, because they have their sheep on dry land. The fact that they often start at six in the morning and work until eleven at night is purely because of that game. This is not seen enough in the Netherlands, that people are intrinsically motivated to create something beautiful and achieve growth. As far as I'm concerned, there could be a little more attention and respect for that.”

 

“While my time at the Binnenhof previously drained me, I found a lot of energy in all those entrepreneurs we write about”

 

Don't you get a distorted picture if you always deal with above-average rich people? You live in Bloemendaal yourself, and there is no Aldi there either...

“I often find myself outside the circles of wealthy Dutch people. We moved to Bloemendaal because it is a pleasant place for our daughter to grow up, but we consciously chose a primary school whose square is not full of au pairs when we go out. We are trying to create a normal worldview for our daughter. A worldview that I also have. I don't come from a rich family. If I had a hole in my pants, they would just sew on an apple. I think it is also a good thing that I am a bit of an outsider in the world of the rich, because that ensures that I continue to be amazed by what I see there.'

Where is the millionaire bar now with continued inflation?

“We have once calculated what you need to no longer have to work. A few years ago we reached eight million. This has now increased. If you have the amount of eleven million, then you have basically done well and you don't have to worry anymore. Then you can be on the golf course every day and go on wonderful trips. You can enjoy retirement from that. That may be more than some people think. But being millionaires is no longer so special these days, there are hundreds of thousands of households that have that, thanks to the surplus value of a house or a pension pot that you can count on.”

Which magazine does Quote emulate internationally?

“When I send out an interview request to someone from abroad, I always say that Parameters is a mix between Forbes and Vanity Fair. Forbes of course because of all the lists like the Quotes 500 there is also one. Vanity Fair because of the fantastic photography we have, but also the space to tell stories well. But our ironic tone of voice is actually incomparable, also internationally. ”

The magazine's showpiece is published every year: the Quote 500. How is this list created?

“This annual publication is the most in-depth, longest-running investigative journalism project in the Netherlands. We naturally keep track of which deals are closed throughout the year. The real calculations start in May, after which we will approach all 500 people who participate in the cut to fetch. Many of them help us, others close the door. That also gives us energy, you know. We are up for any game, including cat and mouse.'

MASTERS Magazine

Curious about the rest of the interview with Paul van Riessen? You want this edition of MASTERS. A milestone in print, pushing the boundaries. Innovative. Surprising. Stunning. Including a very extraordinary guest editor. An interview with the man who pointed out to the Ajax Supervisory Board in 2015 the gaps within the organization that have now come to light. Merijn Zeeman explains how Jumbo-Visma has developed into a top sports company. Quoteman Paul van Riessen calculates how much you need to no longer have to work. Sabine Riezebos explains what sets Bernardus apart from other golf courses. A look at the Stratos Yacht yard, where the ultimate boat for carefree sailing pleasure is being built. And also the rise of robots (where is the sex robot?), Fake News and, exclusively in MASTERS: the 'new Doutzen Kroes'.

 

Order MASTERS Magazine #56 here