A different biography
Florentin Banu, a former badminton champion, is the author of two major successful business on Romanian market - Joe IBC Ltd. (business successfully sold to Nestle, the global manufacturer in food industry), and supermarkets chain Artima RIC, company that was sold to Polish concern PEF Investment in March 2005, becoming after the supermarkets chain "Carrefour".
In 1990, Banu was quiting university and left to Austria. “ The revolution occurred in late December 1989. I stayed here in Romania for one more month and after attending a tournament in Bulgaria I returned immediately and I emigrated. By train. I left the train in Vienna West station and, completely accidentally, I met my coach there: It took me literally off the street, so I did not have to live in the refugees camp in Traiskirchen – I’ve left my papers there but, thaks God, I haven’t lived there. In Viena, he worked as badminton trainer, roofer, pizza men and taxi driver. Looking back, Florentin Banu remembers: “I’ve drove a taxi in Vienna for almost 3 years. I’ve made all my business plans and calculations in taxi.”
Whenever I was waiting for customers, I’ve planned and dreamed…hoped that it will happen once. And I got to live it. Back in Romania, I noticed the change: an awakening, an historical period in our country's economic enviroment. Everything is moving now. We are about to become a true market economy. "Shortly after he returned to Romania in October 1994, he founded JOE IBC, a small company producing wafers. He started producing in a garage, but has emerged as a successful business, eventually employing over 300 workers. In late 2000, with a turnover of 12 million euros, Joe controled about 65 percent of Romanian wafer market. Also that year, Banu sold JOE for several million dollars to Nestle. The multinational keept the brand’s name. JOE wafers can be found in most Romanian supermarkets.
In 2001 Florentin Banu started a supermarket chain – Artima, which lately came to a total of 21 stores in western Romania. It was a business that worked very hard at the begining. After two years, Banu had to ask a friend of his to invest in Artima together with him. Having opened 10 stores, he finally reached break even and a little later, in 2005, sold Artima to investment fund PEF (Polish Enterprise Fund), for 17 million euros. Two years later, the chain was bought by Carrefour for 55 million euros.
After selling the supermarket chain, Florentin Banu entered into another business: real estate this time. "I have two passions: Badminton and business management. If I were only interested in making money, I would do only real estate for that’s most profitable," said Banu in 2005. In 2005 he opened Banu Construct – a building company on residential segment, company that has reached approximately 150 employees, using mostly the management of the Artima.
But his ambition is Interpart, a plastics manufacturing company, also founded in 2005. This is how Florentin Banu wishes to make a gradual shift from trade and construction to sophisticated production processes and innovative technologies.
In 2004 Banu paid a tribute to his passion for badminton by building a large sports complex in Timisoara: Banu Sport. Great passionate of sports, Florentin Banu is also president of the Romanian Badminton Federation, the sport that he practiced at performance level in the past. Banu Sport is for Tinu a business dear to his soul, in which he invested 1.6 million euros but which "in financial terms is an aberration”, as he himself acknowledges, because "for those money I could buy land and make real estate”.
How his businesses looks today? Each of the three start-ups that makes now Banuinvest Group has separate management teams, which includes people close to him and who usually also hold stakes in the companies that they manage. "I refrain from telling my managers <Do so or do so>. If they have a problem, I try to ask them questions until they find their own answer", sketches Banu a practical definition for what he understands by "coaching". "What happens in my companies must come from my managers, they must find solutions, they must learn to cope independently" – he added, confessing that his new business approach is the result of many business books readed and also of the interaction with other businesses and investment funds. "I’ve learned a lot from investment funds", said Banu, declaring himself fascinated by how they manage "to buy companies and make them work in a totally impersonal way, based only on indicators”. Always looking for opportunities and "fickle in business", as himself appoves, Banu has changed his activity sector by 180 degrees after exiting from Artima. "For the challenge", explaines him why he decided to invest in plastic injection. "I’ve had a factory – JOE, and I wanted to have one once again."