„I don’t know if it’s going to work out, but I have hundreds of ideas – one failure won’t bring me down.” This is what Radu Octavian wrote to a friend in 1987. Although unaware at that time, he was telling his friend about the essence of entrepreneurship.
About vision, the courage of trying things out and the strength of overcoming challenges. Meaning what he was about to experience himself, for more than three decades.
Everyone knows him as the founder of the Diverta bookstore chain, which currently has over 25 units across the country. But Octavian Radu’s business career meant being involved in about 100 companies throughout the years, including a few failures, but also about ten successful exits.
The businessman started to be successful in business in the ‘90s, and in 1998 he was already selling RTC Paper Boards, a company specialised in printing paper, to Antalis. In 2003, RTC’s printed paper division, Euro Paper Converting, is sold to Greek company Inform P. Lycos for an estimated EUR 10 million. Four years later, in 2007, the highest number of exits takes place. Radu then sold Pay Store, a distributor of phone SIM cards, to British group PayPoint, for about EUR 15 million; the watercooler distributor Aqua Regis to Cumpana for about EUR 1 million; and Best Distribution to Greek company CD Media.
Also that year, he gave up the shares he owned in Adra Retail, the importer of the Otto brand in Romania, to his business partner Adrian Thiess, and made a trade: 40 percent of the AAV Group’s shares (which had brought brands Esprit, Springfield and Women’s Secret to Romania) in exchange for the total takeover of the franchise rights for the Debenhams stores. He also closed the Wine Deposit and the Fruit and Vegetable Deposit in 2007, and in 2008 he sold ProCA, RTC’s IT&C products distribution division, to RHS Company, as well as his 70 percent share package in Curiero to Iulian Mihailescu.
We should also note that in 2011, Radu sold RTC Proffice Experience to the Swedish investment fund Oresa Ventures, and the Aldo stores to Otter Distribution.
Rivalling the Post Office
In 2013, Octavian Radu also closed the Debenhams stores he operated in Plaza Romania and Bucharest Mall. That is after he had gradually given up the other 12 fashion franchises he owned starting in 2009, due to the economic crisis. The RTC group, which had been evaluated at EUR 200 million in the economic boom period, was also going through some tough times.
The businessman didn’t lose hope and continued to fight for the companies that were still standing, as well as develop a few new ones. For example, he is proud of the fact that the value of the debts his companies owe has been reduced to just 2.5 x EBITDA, a level seen as acceptable by experts (for example, the debts/EBITDA ratio for the 500 largest American companies is currently 2.3). He’s also happy about having started a new business – a blueberry farm.
But one of Radu’s most important recent moves has been the acquisition of PostMaster in 2017 – a post delivery service owned by Österreichische Post, and then the merger of PostMaster with TotalPost, a similar company where he was a minority shareholder. This way, the new company, called Pink Post, became the main competitor of the Romanian Post Office. Octavian Radu expected revenues of EUR 15-20 million in 2018 from the new entity, in which he owned 63 percent of the shares.
The glass is always half-full
Beyond the harder moments, Octavian Radu continues to be a happy and optimistic person who is proud of his contribution to the creation of a functional and modern market economy in Romania. He believes that the country’s main advantage at the moment is the EU’s insistence to make massive investments here and help us integrate, while the biggest risks are the trade deficit and the mass exodus of young people, as well as the lack of fiscal and legal predictability, plus the lack of investments in infrastructure and education.
At the same time, Octavian Radu doesn’t hide the fact that he is proud of his flexibility as a businessman who has opened, sold or closed numerous companies throughout the years and who always knew how to adapt to new challenges on the market. He revealed during the spring of 2018 that he was involved in three acquisition projects and that, going against all his friends’ advice, he was looking closely at the financial services market, more precisely at non-banking financial institutions. It’s no wonder, then, that one of Octavian Radu’s mottos is “Barriers are only in our heads.”