Column Raymond de Mooij
Column Raymond de Mooij

The power card

“I think the worst thing is the arrogant attitude of those people. They play the power card; it’s very annoying.” Willem Ruisdael sat opposite me and shook his head. In 2019, he had let a number of semi-detached business premises for five years to Grizzly, an American company with more than seven thousand stores.

He had been overjoyed with this lucrative deal. But soon problems arose.

“Grizzly has invested millions in building renovations over the past two years,” Ruisdael said. “The store will open next month.” However, during these major renovations, Grizzly’s contractors caused significant damage to the adjacent property, which was also owned by my client. “The front of the building is torn and there is a leak on the roof. The damage is at least 150,000 euros.”

Willem Ruisdael had approached the foreman of the construction company, who had told him that everything would be put in order. “But in practice nothing happened. Then I called the local manager of Grizzly. He was gruff and grunted that I didn’t have to worry.” But months passed without Grizzly making repairs. Finally, my client had sent a certified letter to Grizzly’s New York board of directors. A week later, he received a written response from a lawyer from a Zuidas office. Ruisdael’s request to repair the damage was rejected. He had to stop his summons immediately, because Grizzly would suffer reputational damage, their lawyer said.

“I can’t afford endless legal proceedings against such a wealthy club,” Ruisdael sighed. “And that’s exactly what they’re counting on.”
I patted my client on the shoulder encouragingly. “Let me write a short e-mail to the Zuidas lawyer; you’ll see that your problem will disappear like snow in the sun.”

That same afternoon, I notified Grizzly’s counsel that my client would terminate the lease with Grizzly by the earliest possible date if the damage previously discussed was not fully repaired within a week. Wouldn’t that be a waste of the multimillion-dollar investments Grizzly had already made in the retail spaces?

A day later Ruisdael called. “It’s unbelievable, those guys from Grizzly started the repair work this morning. What have you done?”
I could easily explain that to my client. “You had your own power card, Willem, and it was played yesterday.”

This column was written for Den Haag Centraal, in which Raymond de Mooij writes monthly about what he experiences in his practice.