Netherlands-based global promotional industry leader, Polyconcept, announces the appointment of Michael Bernstein as its new Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, replacing Philippe Varnier, effective May 2, 2012.

Varnier joined Polyflame International, an importer of cigarette lighters, in 1978 and served as vice president until 1993 when he took over the CEO position from the group founder’s son, Richard Peersmann. Under Varnier’s leadership, the group evolved to become Europe’s leading supplier of gift and promotional products with a significant presence in the Asia Pacific region and the USA. Renamed Polyconcept in 1995, the company became independent from its listed Dutch mother company in 2000 through a first LMBO.

Polyconcept then became the world’s largest promotional products supplier in 2005 through the acquisition of Pittsburgh, PA-based Leed’s in 2005, right after the completion of its secondary LMBO in partnership with leading corporate investment firm, Investcorp, Polyconcept’s majority shareholder since then. Michael Bernstein joined Leed’s in 1992 and led the transformation of the company from a U.S. bags importer for the retail market to a leading gift and
promotional products supplier. Bernstein led a first LMBO in 2000 to allow his family to partially exit the capital of the company. After five years of strong and profitable growth, he joined Polyconcept in 2005 through its acquisition of Leed’s and became the group’s vice chairman and CEO of Polyconcept North America. The group has since grown to a global power house with anticipated sales in excess of € 700 million in 2012.

“I’m extremely pleased to hand over my position to Michael who, besides being the most experienced and seasoned CEO we could dream of for the role, has become a personal friend of mine,” Varnier said. “Polyconcept and Michael can count on my full support not only during the upcoming transition period, but also for the mid term as I will continue to serve on the group’s board of directors and be available as an advisor while remaining a significant shareholder. I truly believe that after 34 years with Polyconcept, the time is right for me to take some distance and appoint a new leader to leverage its
full potential and take it to new heights.”

Bernstein, who plans to remain in the Netherlands before returning to Pittsburgh, PA, points to the following as his goals for moving the company forward: “Polyconcept, under Philippe’s leadership, is a recognized leader and innovator in the Promotional Products Industry. I will seek to continue to grow and evolve the Company in the years ahead. I’m extremely proud to be trusted with the stewardship of a Company with such legacy and thank Philippe for his ongoing support.”

Yves Alexandre, head of corporate investment for Europe for Polyconcept’s majority shareholder Investcorp and a Polyconcept board member, said: “I would like to thank Philippe for his role in the creation and transformation of Polyconcept into the world’s leading promotional products supplier. Polyconcept is entering a new phase of its rich history, and we welcome back Michael who is the best leader to pursue this successful adventure.”

Polyconcept’s executive management team will remain unchanged under Bernstein’s leadership, and Polyconcept will continue to invest in its operations to continuously deliver an outstanding service to its clients all over the globe.

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