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FB Roundup: De Benedetti, Singh and Walentas

Family feud at Italy’s la Repubblica as founder seeks to take control from sons, India pharma brothers arrested over ‘330 million’ fraud and real estate family donate $100 million to help first-generation students

Family feud at Italy’s la Repubblica as founder seeks to take control from sons

A feud at one of Italy’s most powerful dynasties broke out over the weekend after media tycoon Carlo De Benedetti accused his sons of mismanaging the newspaper business he founded and sought to regain control.

The 84-year-old founder came out of retirement on Sunday and made a €38 million ($42 million) offer to buy a 30% stake in GEDI Gruppo Editoriale SpA, the owner of daily newspapers la Repubblica and La Stampa.

Speaking to the Corriere della Sera newspaper, De Benedetti (pictured) accused his sons, Rodolfo, Marco and Edoardo, whom he handed control of GEDI in 2012, of having “neither the skills nor the passion required to be publishers” and had concentrated solely on looking for a buyer.

He said he wanted to relaunch “the group with which I have been associated for most of my life”.

De Benedetti’s sons have rebuffed his offer and said they were “shocked” by their father’s behaviour, according to Italian news agency Ansa.

A statement from CIR Group, the family holding company that owns 44% of GEDI and is controlled by De Benedetti’s sons, said the offer was “inadmissible”.

De Benedetti, an electrical engineer, succeeded his father as chief executive of manufacturing business Compagnia Italiana Tubi Metallici Flessibili in 1959. In 1976, he acquired CIR Group, gaining control of the left-leaning la Repubblica and l’Espresso newspapers. He served as chief executive in 2006 after the death of his long-serving chief executive Carlo Caracciolo and announced his retirement in 2009, handing over control to his son Rodolfo.

India pharma brothers arrested over ‘$330 million’ fraud

Police in India have arrested two business brothers over their alleged embezzlement of more than $330 million from a financial services company they previously founded.

In a statement, Delhi Police said brothers Shivinder (pictured) and Malvinder Singh, scions of one of India’s most prominent business families, were charged with cheating, criminal conspiracy and criminal breach of trust. They deny the charges.

The arrests came in response to a police complaint filed in 2018 by the financial services company Religare Enterprises, which the Singhs founded, but is now under new ownership. They alleged the brothers had embezzled money it had loaned to companies related to them.

The police said the firm gave corporate loans to companies which were owned by the brothers. The money was then used to pay off existing liabilities but, the companies defaulted in paying back their loans and left Religare Finvest in “poor financial condition”.

The arrests mark a new low in the family’s long fall from grace. The brother’s gained prominence in 2008 when they sold generic drug company, Ranbaxy Laboratories, which their grandfather founded and their father built into India’s largest pharmaceutical company. It was sold for $4.6 billion to Japanese firm Daiichi Sankyo.

Over the following decade they used the $2 billion windfall they received from the sale to build new businesses, including Fortis Healthcare and financial services conglomerate Religare.

However, in recent years they lost all their major businesses to mounting debt and alleged fraudulent business practices.

Real estate family donate $100 million to help first-generation students

The family of billionaire real estate developer David Walentas, who was the first in his family to attend college, has made a $100 million donation to help other first-generation students at the university he attended.

In a statement, the University of Virginia (UVA) said the bulk of the gift—$75 million—would be used to establish scholarships and fellowships for first-generation students to attend college, with the remaining $25 million dedicated to fellowships and professorships through the Jefferson Scholars Foundation and Darden School of Business.

“Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who had been to college, but I knew that it was a way out of poverty and a path to opportunity,” Walentas said.

“Thanks to a scholarship, I was the first in my family to attend college, and my time at UVA completely changed my life.”

In 2013, the Walentas Foundation donated $5,000 to its Darden School of Business, where Walentas got his MBA. His wife, Jane, has also given “a few million” to the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, which provides merit scholarships to UVA students.

David Walentas founded Two Trees Management, which is best known for transforming two Brooklyn neighbourhoods—Dumbo and Williamsburg. He now owns more than two dozen residential and commercial properties across Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, Williamsburg and Manhattan. In 2011, he was succeeded by his son, Jed Walentas (pictured), as chief executive of Two Trees.  As of October 2019, he had a net worth of $2.5 billion, according to Forbes.

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