Above Cape Town, the epoch and very
beautiful Table Mountain floats like a ribbon of a highway
Likewise Ivan Petrov's presence last week
in Cape Town elevated the FIATA 2019 World Congress.
He is decent, easygoing, cool, engaged and
full of ideas.
Ivan defined the upside of networking by
finding a place in time at his table for everyone.
Here Marco, who knows Ivan as well as anybody,
shares the rest of the story.
Let me start this article from New York
City. I am sure our FIATA Fellow Geoffrey Arend would approve of this
We must go back to the times when the Soviet
empire was coming to an end: as we all know the Eastern Block was coming
to a relatively sudden crunch at the end of 1980’s.
Precisely at that point in time Ivan Petrov,
found himself in New York City, where he had been invited from his native
Bulgaria, at that time still under USSR’s influence, in order to
acquire more experience in the art of running a private business.
His host was none other than the successful
and enterprising Helmut Klestadt, who was the owner of Trans-World Shipping
Corp., a thriving freight forwarding company.
In those crucial years Berta and Helmut
Klestadt invited and “adopted” Ivan, whose experience had
been almost exclusively in Despred, the Sofia-based national monopoly
which covered both the forwarding business and the association duties
Young & Full Of Hope
Naturally Ivan made friends with Berta’s
son, Gary, who is still active in the business today, but no longer in
his father’s company as he was in those days.
This is how Gary Klestadt sums up his own
experience in the forwarding business:
“I’ve had an unusually broad
exposure to the brokerage and forwarding industry, virtually growing up
“Starting in my teens and advancing
through the ranks of Trans-World Shipping Corp., a mid-sized company owned
by my family, I worked in every area of the business, traveled extensively,
and succeeded my father as president in 1996, a position I held until
our merger with Laufer Group International in June of 2008.
“Since early in my career, I’ve
been an active participant in local, national, and international industry
“Starting out on various committees,
I’ve served on the boards of both the NY/NJ Foreign Freight Forwarders
and Brokers Association and the National Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders
“I was approached by FIATA (the international
association of forwarders associations) to help solicit the NCBFAA’s
membership, and acted as a liaison between the two organizations for over
The Ivan Factor
With the heroin bubble and the beginning
of the AIDS epidemic, 1980s NYC could be a hard place to live for some,
but it was so full of life and expectation (is it not still so today?)
that living in NYC was surely a life changing experience for many.
This is precisely what happened to Ivan,
who spent his time in the States dutifully studying and acquiring business
experiences that were not only unique for the times, but instrumental
in his future development.
Upon his arrival back in Sofia, Ivan found
a reality that he could not have anticipated, at least not in the dimension
that those winds of change had impressed.
The transition from the Soviet regime in
the Eastern Block was in a way abrupt and obligatory.
Ivan Petrov had opened his own business
in 1991 (Trans-Express Ltd and Trans-Log Cargo) and went to the USA to
make contacts and experience.
When he was back he was rapidly establishing
a successful alternative to the state-owned Despred, from where he had
been expelled on his return from America.
Perhaps some of my readers, in particular
those who are a little older, can imagine what uncertainty and difficulties
Ivan must have gone through in his long journey from communist Sofia to
the international arena, represented by FIATA, where he had also been
catapulted by his international experience.
He had in fact been Despred’s man
to liaise with FIATA to organise the 1989 FIATA Congress in Sofia, which
Ivan turned into a double edge opportunity.
Ivan made precious acquaintances and friends,
who turned out to be the springboard of his future success, but at the
same time he had also shown sufficient talent and entrepreneurship to
make him incompatible with the rigid mores of a state-owned company such
The FIATA Leadership Connection
Thirty years on, Ivan Petrov is today one
of the FIATA’s three Senior Vice Presidents and, as such, one of
the seven members of the exclusive FIATA Presidency.
Ivan, I should point out was situate at
Cape Town last week, during the FIATA World Congress and is pictured here
with past president Huxiang Zhao.
When I think about putting such information
together I always have the impression that events do not happen by chance.
There is an amount of wonder in things that
happen around us that always surprises me. It is quite wonderful that
Ivan was put in contact with Mr. Klestadt through Despred and FIATA, went
to New York for a while, and learned his way to develop a business that
would modernize the Bulgarian logistics landscape.
The Bulgarian forwarding industry was in
dire need of expertise in free trade and business management when the
monopolistic culture of the Eastern Block was coming to its natural end.
In my view this is all quite awe-inspiring,
but not unusual in FIATA, as my experience in the association later taught
Ivan and I met in Vienna in 1997, when he
appeared to me as a relatively young (six years younger than I, being
born in 1958), enterprising and intriguing guy.
We were both entrepreneurs and both of us
had asymmetrical eyes, as I happen to notice.
We discussed some business, but we did not
find compatible ground, so that we could start off an impromptu business
For unknown reasons Ivan seemed to rely
on me as an experienced person in the world of associations and FIATA
(on the contrary I had almost no experience at all).
I was there and then in Vienna as a delegate
sent by Fedespedi, whilst serving as president of the local association
Beautiful FIATA Friendship
That is how our friendship started.
It managed to continue uninterrupted through
the many changes in my life, including when I moved to Trieste, attracted
by Fedespedi’s president Mr. Roberto Prioglio, and further when
I moved to CLECAT in Brussels, and eventually to Zurich to become FIATA’s
DG. Before we realized it, we had been friends for twenty-five years.
Gentleman & A Scholar
What I found in Ivan was a gem that is seldom
found in the predominantly male environment of freight forwarding business:
a man whose knowledge was already quite extensive (he had already attained
his PhD in logistics, having studied in his homeland Bulgaria, in Moscow,
Vienna and the USA). He was a person who was very keen to learn and exchange
thoughts without the least intention to impart any lessons, even when
he clearly had a deeper knowledge and experience than his interlocutors.
He also had and still shows a strangely
realistic sense of humor, which allows him to look at some of the unpleasant
elements of life as elements of a puzzle, whose odd-sized parts are scattered
here and there so that the picture never becomes boring and never losing
hope that in the end everything will fit together nicely.
Trans-World Shipping Corp.
I once visited Ivan in Bulgaria when I lived
in the Slovenian part of Italy, working for Mr. Prioglio.
Ivan and his wife Svetla were great hosts
They had inquired about my tastes and made
sure that the business came with some entertainment, in this case a jaunt
to the Monastery
of Rila, as Ivan knew that entertainment and culture go hand in hand
Such a perfect host!
The site in Rila is wonderful indeed, both
historically and for its architecture and painted vaults.
If you happen to visit Bulgaria or Northern
Greece my advice is to devote one of your leisure days to visit this one
thousand years old pearl; it will be good for your soul as well as for
your body, as the local food nearby is quite wonderful, too.
When I started thinking about this article
I caught Ivan in London, where he had taken his family to celebrate his
daughter Kalina’s graduation—first class with honors, Bachelor
of Science in Economics and Mathematics, Natural Sciences at the University
photos, teachers, library . . . everything speaks of achievement, hard
work and the joy that accomplishment brings to those who are ready to
sacrifice and aim at higher objectives.
The joyful smiles and the gestures in the
pictures inform us of the achieved satisfaction that Ivan’s family
And it is not even the first time! Mina,
Ivan’s other daughter, made the grade at the University of Lancaster
in Management, in a twin program with Milan’s Bocconi, in 2018.
The Petrovs are a clearly happy couple,
who managed to steer their vessel through the sea of the historical changes
their country went through to land on shore with satisfaction, get married,
have kids and manage a very successful freight forwarding business!
Kudos to these inspiring, extraordinary