On April 20, 2023, during the first lustrum congress of the Conference on European Restructuring and Insolvency Law (CERIL), Prof. Em. Bob Wessels was appointed as Officer in the Royal Order of Orange-Nassau. On behalf of H.M. King Willem-Alexander, Mayor Koff of the City of Dordrecht presented Wessels was with the decorations. Wessels has been appointed Officer for his longstanding contribution to the advancement of private law and in particular insolvency law in the Netherlands, Europe and beyond.
The Royal Order was awarded to Wessels in the presence of his family and numerous (former) colleagues from the Netherlands and abroad during an international conference at Leiden University on a recent legislative proposal of the European Commission. Because of his many and distinguished contributions to the Dutch, European and international community, Wessels was appointed as Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau. In a speech prior to presenting the decoration, the mayor emphasized Wessels’ impressive career, with the many activities he performs and has performed. In addition to a commercial career in legal practice, he has a long and successful academic career, which is actually still ongoing. He has also been active as a judge and arbitrator, and is now also an enthusiastic amateur historian and guide for those who visit him in Dordrecht.
After receiving his doctorate in 1988, he became a professor, first at the Free University in Amsterdam and later at Leiden University. He has also held several visiting professorships at foreign universities. During his academic career, Wessels published an impressive 1,600 or so articles, books and reports. In particular, since 1999 he has edited the monumental standard work in the field of insolvency law: the ten-volume book series Wessels Insolventierecht (Insolvency Law), published by WoltersKluwer, of which he recently completed the 5th edition.
Wessels has been a driving force behind several European and international research projects aimed at promoting the quality of national law, the possibilities for cross-border restructuring and insolvency proceedings and the promotion of professional standards for judges and insolvency administrators in cross-border cooperation and communication.
Boosting national and international insolvency law
Wessels played an important role in shaping the field now known as international restructuring and insolvency law. This is clearly reflected in his years of involvement within expert groups of the European Commission, as well as membership of the joint Board of Appeal of the three European financial supervisory authorities (ESMA, EBA and EIOPA).
He took the initiative, together with others, to establish several now well-known organisations in the field of European and international restructuring and insolvency law. He co-founded the International Insolvency Institute (III), the Dutch Association for Comparative and International Insolvency Law (NACIIL), and is the co-founder and current chairman of CERIL, an independent European think tank in the field of restructuring and insolvency law.
A contemporary ‘artist-entrepreneur’ ahead of his time
In addition, Wessels has served as president of the INSOL Europe Academic Forum, and set up a network for young researchers (Younger Academics Network of Insolvency Law (YANIL)). In doing so, he has been at the base of a now vibrant international community of young legal insolvency talent and promoted greater diversity. Also, several years ago he donated his private book collection to the Bob Wessels Insolvency Law Collection Foundation (BWILC), which has made this collection available in the Leiden Law School’s library.
Mayor Kolff spoke about Wessels and the central figure of one of his recent books on the financial life of Rembrandt. With the great dedication and creativity that Wessels employed in all his activities, he elevated the pursuit of science to an art (artist) and at the same time showed a great entrepreneurial spirit (entrepreneur).
Copyright photo: Monique Shaw