S.A. Spadel N.V.



Spadel, with over 250 million euros in revenue and 900 employees, bottles and markets natural mineral waters in Belgium and 25 other countries. Headquarters is a company-owned, four-story building about five miles from downtown Brussels. It's an area with lots of similar-size buildings with the rear of the property backing up to a passing freeway. There are no signs on the building but banners sporting the name Spa, the company's best selling brand, flap away on flagpoles outside the entrance.

Checking in with the receptionist I explain sending a letter of introduction a month earlier to Director General Jean-Philippe Despontin. I'm told to take a seat in the waiting area. There's a small see-through fridge filled with bottles of company products including several kinds of fruit cordials. It's self-serve so I pick out a bottle to sample but one has to first ask the receptionist for a bottle opener. The waiting area contains five glass displays filled with Spadel's various product lines.

I meet with Henri-Noel Paulwels, General Counsel. Though appreciative of Paulwels taking the time to see me, he's very guarded with his answers but, then again he is the company's main lawyer.

About 100 employees work here. There are no onsite recreational facilities, employee parking is free, smoking in offices is optional, conference/meeting rooms are named after springs and there's no formal dress code. It's a 30-minute drive to the city center of Brussels, 10-minutes to Brussels airport, and five minutes to get to the nearest freeway (the one which passes behind this building). Spadel has no corporate aircraft, no corporate art collection and no executive dining rooms with the company cafeteria serving only cold sandwiches. Any employee perks? Employees can purchase two cases of company products a month at a "good discount".

It's a mixed-use area with apartment buildings located across the street. A lot of companies have offices in this area as it's located roughly halfway between the airport and downtown Brussels with the nearby freeway connecting the two.

My request to see the boardroom or the top floor office of Director General Jean-Philippe Despontin is denied. Why? Paulwels says visitors are not allowed. I don't take an annual report with me as it's printed only in French and Dutch. The company's website is also only in French and Dutch. Website: www.spadel.com