Working across multiple sectors and markets, COFRA Holding is a diversified group of businesses united by a common ethos and striving to bring about a more just society and sustainable world. Anthos Fund & Asset Management, Bregal Investments, C&A, The Sustainable Food Group, Redevco and Sunrock Investments seek to create true worth – lasting value and a positive impact – in their respective industries. The group employs more than 60,000 people in Europe, the Americas and Asia.
Across generations, COFRA has aspired to leverage the power of business to do good. But there is no stable bar for “good enough” so we must continually evaluate and question what good looks like. Through our endeavours we work toward supporting flourishing communities and ecosystems, where the dignity of all is nurtured.
Our strategic agenda centres around sustainably increasing the positive financial, social and environmental impact of our businesses and assets. We seek to:
COFRA is wholly owned by descendants of Clemens and August Brenninkmeijer, who founded C&A in 1841. This tight-knit group of businessmen and women make a life-long commitment to serve the multi-generational family business in a spirit of stewardship, working alongside some of the top professionals in each industry.More on leadership and governance
Six generations of Brenninkmeijer family owners have overseen the business since it was established back in 1841. The commitment they make to each other and the business is lifelong, and involves pooling resources to invest in a better future as well as engaging in philanthropy together. Every owner promises to contribute to the best of their abilities according to the needs of the group, to develop themselves and others around them, and to try and put the common good ahead of personal interest.
To become a leader in the business and own shares in COFRA, children of the current family owners undergo a rigorous process of selection, evaluation and apprenticeship lasting around 15 years. Not everyone chooses it – many have a different calling in life – and not everyone who chooses to work at COFRA makes it all the way.
Those that do have earned their place as a steward of the business and the confidence of their colleagues. It’s a commitment they make for life, in a spirit of stewardship with a clear commitment to act as engaged owners.
“While we may be eligible, none of us is entitled - you have to earn it.”
CEO, Anthos Family Office
Ownership here is about responsibility, not possession. In taking on the challenge, eligible family members promise to contribute to the best of their abilities according to the needs of the group, to develop themselves and others around them, and to try and put the common good ahead of personal interest – to lead is to serve.
The enterprise has weathered many storms in its long history – not least two world wars, pandemics, and at least five depressions. What has made this family business so resilient? An enduring culture of consensus has played its part – the willingness to listen and be challenged, to adapt as the world changes or hold firm to principles that may not be fashionable, and the discernment to choose which of these paths to pursue together. Being able to draw on the wisdom of a group that spans generations is a real strength, and while cohesion can take more effort, it’s worth it in the long run.
"Sneekerkring" is a nickname for the group of family owners of the business comprising shareholders past and present. The name literally translates as a circle of people connected to the town of Sneek in the Netherlands where the business was founded and the first store opened.
Although the number of owners engaged with the business at any one time is limited, family members all have parents or grandparents, perhaps even siblings and children who have experienced what it’s like to devote their life to the enterprise.
That fosters a deep connection within the broader Brenninkmeijer community. The family gets bigger and more dispersed with every decade that passes, but each individual has a particular and personal connection to a shared history and a family business in its sixth generation.
You don’t keep a business running since 1841 without doing lots of things right. Equally, you don’t run a business for that long without making mistakes. This is the challenge of high aspirations – living up to them isn’t always easy. COFRA’s history is a story about people and families, vision and chance, successes and setbacks, hard-won experience, change and growth. But above all it’s a story about hope – that a better, more sustainable approach to business is not just preferable, it’s possible.
Clemens and August Brenninkmeijer, young entrepreneurs with shared aspirations, left the existing family business and founded the company that would go on to be the global fashion retailer C&A, setting the blueprint for an engaged and ethical approach to business with family at its heart.
1860 – 1900
In 1860 the brothers opened their first shop, in Sneek. It was an immediate success. A second opened in nearby Leeuwarden in 1881. August died in 1892, but Clemens lived to see two more stores open – both in Amsterdam. The next generation expanded the business to other large cities, making C&A one of the first national retailers.
In 1911, the youngest son of August (also named Clemens) and his nephew Richard opened the first store in Germany, near today’s Alexanderplatz in Berlin. It was an overnight sensation thanks to its fixed price tags, cash-only purchasing and one-year guarantee – unheard of at the time. After initial surprise, this new approach to retail really took off.
In the spirit of shared entrepreneurship, the family owners came to the view that they needed to invest. In 1929, the family owners set up a pooled investment vehicle to ensure the expansion of their business for future generations. This long-term, values-driven approach lives on today through Anthos Fund & Asset Management.
Redevco was set up in 1999 to manage the portfolio of high-street retail real estate which expanded in parallel with C&A. The company has gone on to expand its portfolio to include residential, mixed-use and commercial real estate in line with its mission to help make cities more liveable and sustainable.
Up to the 1990s, C&A had enjoyed great success under a decentralised model. But to seize the opportunity of the newly created European single market, it was necessary to merge ten separate companies, each with its own local governance and board structures. In 2001, a centralised holding company, COFRA Holding AG was born.
Following the success of Redevco, the expertise built up in managing the family’s assets, equities and investments was put to good use in setting up Bregal. This global private equity platform invests in mid-market companies in North America and Europe with a strong focus on generating returns through Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) improvements.
As part of our strategy to embrace the big challenges the world faces and contribute to a more liveable planet and equitable society, COFRA acquired Sunrock in 2020. A leading developer of commercial rooftop solar projects in Europe, it seeks to play a positive role in the transition to a cleaner energy system.
C&A Europe launched its One C&A plan to transform the business, modernise the brand, and offer a seamless omnichannel experience. This involved refurbishing more than 800 stores, signing digital sales partnerships, simplifying the range and updating product designs, all under the leadership of C&A Europe’s first female CEO.
Evolving the way we grow food will be vital as the world struggles to sustain the growing population in a changing climate. In response to this, COFRA has been assembling its Sustainable Food Group, acquiring high-tech greenhouse developer Dalsem and starter plant producer Ontario Plants Propagation. Their complementary expertise can help drive the transition through Controlled Environment Agriculture.