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Family Business Roundup: Blue Bell, Dassault Aviation, Holcim, and VW

Blue Bell Creameries recall all products due to listeria; Dassault Aviation secures $7.1 billion deal; and Holcim profit up after stake sale

Blue Bell Creameries recall all products due to listeria

Texas-based ice cream maker Blue Bell Creameries, operated by the Kruse family, recalled all of its products this week after a potentially fatal foodborne illness was discovered in its products. 

The move is the most recent in a string of recall announcements by the 108-year-old company, which has been linked to an outbreak of listeria. Experts believe their ice cream may have caused three deaths since 2010.

Blue Bell CEO Paul Kruse said: “We are heartbroken about this situation and apologise to all of our loyal Blue Bell fans and customers.”

Listeria monocytogenes is a genus of bacterium that causes the infection listeriosis, which primarily affects pregnant women, according to The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Blue Bell Creameries was founded in 1907 in Brenham, Texas and reported sales of $489 million in 2014.

Dassault Aviation secures $7.1 billion deal

French aerospace company Dassault Aviation will sell at least 24 Rafale combat jets to Qatar in a deal that is estimated to be worth $7.1 billion.

The upcoming contract, which was announced by Dassault on 30 April, will be signed in Doha during a visit by French President François Hollande next month. 

The news hits just two weeks after a multi-billion-dollar deal to supply India with 126 planes was scrapped.

Dassault, which is 55% owned by the eponymous family and is in the second generation, has been hit by a decline in business-jet sales in recent years. The firm posted sales of $3.6 billion in 2014.

Holcim profit up after stake sale

Swiss family-owned cement maker Holcim reported a surge in first-quarter earnings this week after the sale of its stake in a Thai company boosted performance.

The news comes ahead of a crucial shareholder vote on its $46 billion union with French competitor La Fafarge which nearly fell apart last month due to rivalries between key Holcim and Lafarge figures.

Jona-based Holcim posted profit for the three months ended 31 March 2015 of CHF310 million ($329.8 million), up from CHF80 million in the same quarter a year earlier, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Holcim, which is owned by the Schmidheiny family, posted net sales of around CHF19 billion in 2014.

VW boss Ferdinand Piech quits after power struggle

Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech has stepped down after a secret plot to oust non-family chief executive officer Martin Winterkorn.

The 76-year-old, who is a grandson of VW Beetle creator Ferdinand Porsche, had wanted to trigger a leadership change before stepping down from the firm but the board backed Winterkorn in a 5-to-1 vote. He had been chairman for 20 years.

Whether Piech now sells his 13.2% stake in the company (likely to other members of his family) or holds on to it and exerts influence behind the scenes remains up for debate.

During his tenure Piech reversed losses of over $1 billion in 1993 to a $2.6 million profit, in the process going on an acquisition spree of brands such as Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti.

The Piech family owns 51% of VW. The German carmaker posted revenues of €197 billion in 2013.

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