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FB Roundup: Dassault Group, JAB Holding, and Brown-Forman

French industrialist Serge Dassault dies, JAB Holding adds Pret to portfolio, and Jack Daniels maker Brown-Forman appoints second successive non-family CEO
Serge Dassault at the launch of the Falcon 7X in 2005
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Press Association

French icon Serge Dassault dies aged 93

The controversial French industrialist and politician Serge Dassault, chairman of the eponymous aviation and software giant Dassault Group, has died aged 93.

The nonagenarian, who took over the business after his father’s death in 1986, is understood to have died at the headquarters of Dassault Aviation, according to French media reports.

Last year, the former member of the French Senate was found guilty of fraud by a Paris court after failing to disclose the full extent of his wealth to the tax authorities and fined €2 million ($2.3 million).

The family-owned Dassault Group controls more than 10 different companies focused on aerospace and armaments, as well as French newspaper Le Figaro.

In 2014 it appointed Charles Edelstenne, its current chief executive, as eventual successor to Serge Dassault, saying at the time that the succession would be automatic. 

Dassault Group, which is 55% owned by the eponymous family and is in its third generation, has been hit by a decline in business-jet sales in recent years.

The group’s consolidated annual sales stood at more than €9 billion ($10.5 billion).


Riemann-controlled JAB Holding adds Pret A Manger to food and drink empire

Family-controlled long-term investor JAB Holdings has continued it acquisition spree, this time agreeing to buy UK-based ready-to-eat retailer Pret a Manger for an estimated $1.5 billion.

Luxembourg-based JAB Holding Company and JAB Consumer Fund has acquired several US food and beverage interests in the past few years including cold drinks company, Dr Pepper Snapple for $18.7 billion, Panera Bread and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, in a surprise $1.35 billion deal in 2016. 

JAB has spent more than $30 billion on café assets over the last five years, including Keurig, Caribou Coffee, Krispy Kreme Donuts, and Panera Bread.

JAB is associated with the Reimann family, one of the wealthiest and most reclusive business dynasties in Europe who are descended from 19th century chemist Ludwig Reimann.


Brown-Forman appoints second successive non-family CEO

US drink-maker Brown-Forman, which is behind brands such as Jack Daniel’s and Southern Comfort whiskeys, is to appoint another non-family chief executive to lead its business after Paul Varga announced his retirement.

The fifth-generation family business has been headed by Varga since 2005, who has worked at the Louisville, Kentucky-based business for 31 years.

Varga will be succeeded by Lawson E. Whiting, a 21-year veteran of the company who currently serves as executive vice president and chief operating officer. 

Whiting will become the tenth executive leader of Brown-Forman, since its founding in 1870 by George Garvin Brown.

The company’s total shareholder return (TSR) during his leadership tenure to date has been 17%, propelled by an almost six-fold increase in the company’s market capitalization, which today approximates $28 billion. 

Varga will remain on the Brown-Forman board of directors.

Brown-Forman reported annual revenues of $3.8 billion in the year to 30 April 2017.

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