Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the presentation of a royal decoration to Peter Wennink, departing CEO of ASML, Veldhoven

Ladies and gentlemen,

It’s still a great story about the two of you:
In 2013 you were both in the frame for the top job at ASML.
Even back then, it was already a company with a massive turnover: more than five billion euros.
The question was: who should lead this fast-growing business?
The brilliant technologist, Martin van den Brink, or the financial wizard, Peter Wennink?
Both of you were committed to ASML with heart and soul.

When the two of you were asked if you wanted the top job, and whether you’d stay if the other person got it, you each answered ‘yes’ to both questions.
So what could be more logical than the proposal you put on the table: we’ll do the job together.
Peter, you took on the higher-profile role of CEO. 
Martin, you became Chief Technology Officer.
But in practice, you ran the company together.
And the rest, as they say, is history.

With both of you at the helm, ASML’s turnover increased from five to over twenty billion euros.
Its stock market valuation rose by 900 per cent.
The company now has 21,000 patents to its name.
It has 42,000 employees around the world. 
Including some 20,000 in the Netherlands.
What’s more, around 1,600 of its 5,000 suppliers are based in the Netherlands. 
And half of those are located in or around Eindhoven.
In short, it’s impossible to overstate ASML’s success, your success. 
Or the company’s importance to the region’s economy, and its significance for the Netherlands as a whole. 

Your achievements have gone from big, to bigger, to biggest.
Precisely because your sights are always set in the opposite direction: from small, to smaller, to smallest.
Thanks to the unique technology of extreme ultraviolet lithography, your chip machines can do things the competition cannot.
In fact, nine out of every ten chip machines in the world today are made by ASML.

Peter, in this ‘co-parenting arrangement’ with Martin, your role was the most visible one.
At least to the outside world.
That’s not the only reason that I want to focus on you today.
But I’ll come back to that in a minute.

Peter, it doesn’t matter who you ask: everyone who’s ever worked with you, or for you, seems to admire three key qualities.
Your international outlook.
Your long-term strategic insight.
And finally, your interest in those around you. 
Your personal touch.

You might say: well, the international outlook comes with the job.
And yet, not many people can operate across so many diverse countries and cultures with such ease. 
With such power of persuasion. 
I saw this for myself on several occasions.
You were open and friendly. 
Very well-informed. 
And always clear and to the point.
Whenever I saw you in action, I was always deeply impressed.

Every now and then, you rightly reminded us in The Hague’s corridors of power that much of our economy’s strength comes from beyond Hazeldonk.
And that our country’s investment climate depends on thinking further ahead than tomorrow and the day after.
Now, the government certainly isn’t in the habit of handing out personal farewell gifts. 
But I can imagine you felt somewhat gratified by the government’s recent decision to bolster the economic structure of this region.
Let me put it this way: Beethoven wasn’t always deaf, as many people think.

Your strategic foresight is one of your most distinctive characteristics.
As you clearly showed in your career at ASML.
Take the financial crisis that hit in 2008.
It was a difficult time for the company, with forced redundancies.
And yet, under your financial leadership, ASML continued investing heavily in technological innovation.
You swam against the tide. 
Convinced that innovation was the key to future success.
And of course, you were right.
That’s when the foundations were laid for the company’s leading position in today’s global semiconductor industry.
After that, as CEO, you continued to champion the importance of innovation.
Perhaps that’s one reason you are so actively committed to your advisory role in the Dutch National Growth Fund.

Peter, you were also the boss who had breakfast in the company restaurant at 7.30 every morning. 
If you were in the country, of course.
For you it was important to talk with staff at every level.
Partly because you are genuinely interested in people.
But also, I think, because you understand something crucial:
You won’t find out how your company’s doing if you stay in the boardroom all day.
You wanted to know what was really happening.
And so you made sure that people knew they could always talk to you.

I think that’s probably a trace of the old Philips DNA.
The idea that – even in a multinational firm – you should cherish a sense of family. 
And that your company has a social responsibility.
In that respect, you always set the tone. 
Like when you co-founded the Ronald McDonald House in Veldhoven.
You were a CEO who led by example.
And this explains a lot.
It explains, for example, why ASML is committed to sustainability.
It explains why the company is involved in so many programmes concerned with sport, culture, education, housing and infrastructure. 
To give something back to the community. 

You always made time to speak with local administrators, housing associations, cultural and welfare institutions, homeless persons. 
And yes, sometimes, even a politician from The Hague.
You are approachable and committed.
Your personal focus and social engagement are qualities that both define you and do you great credit.

And I haven’t even mentioned the long list of outside activities that would amount to a full-time job for most people.
There’s Captains of Industry Eindhoven, Holland High Tech, the FME-CWE association of tech firms, Eindhoven University of Technology, and the European Round Table for Industry.
That’s just a small selection of the many organisations that have benefited from your expertise and experience.

Martin, you discovered a while ago how it feels to be rewarded with a royal token of gratitude for decades of hard work and achievement. 
Peter, today it is your turn. 
And that is the reason for putting you and your accomplishments in the spotlight today.

I’m delighted to announce that it has pleased His Majesty the King to appoint you Grand Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau.
Please come forward, so that I can present you with the insignia of the Order.