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Lauders looking good for Family Business Leader of the Year award

As we approach the halfway point of the search to find 2009's Family Business Leader of the Year, Ronald and Leonard Lauder have taken a decisive lead in the poll. The two sons of beauty queen Estee have impressed voters with the way they handled a succession process that saw a non-family CEO installed but the family retain ownership.

Voting closes at the beginning of December, so there is still time for a turnaround. Click here cast your vote.

In joint second place are Ferdinand Piech, Francois-Henri Pinault and Nobutada Saji. Piech and Pinault may be benefiting from recent media coverage. Piech's Volkswagen announced last week they are to take a larger than expected stake in debt-laden Porsche when VW takes its first step towards takeover at the end of the year. (Click here to read our coverage of the story

While PPR, of which Pinault is head, announced it is to continue the strategic refocusing instigated by Pinault by selling a majority share in its subsidiary distribution group CFAO. (Click here to read out coverage of the story)

Saji's Suntory is currently trying to push through its merger with Kirin before the end of the year amid concerns from regulators about the potential dominance of the combined business.

Shortlist for Campden FB Family Business Leader of the Year:

Paulo Bellini: the 82-year-old co-founder of MarcoPolo, one of Brazil's most respected companies, received an award for the treatment of his employees in September. Although the coach manufacturer's profits have suffered as a result of the economic downturn, the share price has outperformed the Brazilian stock exchange by 86% in the past six months. Marcopolo "is a model in the domestic and international markets" and Mr Bellini "has shown wisdom and clear concern for his workers," said the prizegivers.

Jon and Peter Huntsman: the father and son team presided over a botched sale of the family business last year, but managed to regain their reputations by taking some of the biggest investment banks and private equity groups to court, and winning. At a great time to be acquiring companies and consolidating their position, their war chest stands at $2.75 billion. Meanwhile, in the past six months, Huntsman has outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average by 196%. 

Ronald and Leonard Lauder: the two sons of cosmetics pioneer Estee Lauder oversaw one of the most seamless family business successions ever. The transition, which began back in 2007, was concluded earlier this year when non-family COO Fabrizio Freda, brought in from Proctor and Gamble, was appointed CEO and Leonard's son William took over the chairmanship of the board. Ronald retired from the company's board of directors in July to be replaced by his daughter Jane.

Ferdinand Piech: the Volkswagen chairman may be a controversial figure to have on the list but his success in pushing through the takeover of Porsche has earned him a nomination. Until the onset of the crisis in 2008 it looked likely Porsche, lead by Piech's cousin Wolfgang Porsche, would succeed in its David-versus-Goliath takeover of VW. However Piech eventually won out in the family battle and in a rapid change of fortunes, Porsche will soon come under his control.

Francois-Henri Pinault: CEO of luxury goods firm PPR, Pinault has reaped the rewards of taking a lot of tough decisions in 2007/8. Stepping out of the shadow of his father, the founder who he took over from in 2005, Francois-Henri was quick to spot the onset of the recession. He engaged in aggressive cost-cutting measures, which, combined with his decision to take a controlling share in Puma, has helped PPR avoid the problems facing many others in the luxury industry.

Nobutada Saji: the head of the 110-year-old family-owned Japanese brewers Suntory launched a forward thinking strategy in January by streamlining its organisation. Suntory currently enjoys a dominant domestic market share for many of its products, but with Japan's population set to decrease by a third in the coming decades, expansion abroad is key. Such long-term planning by the founder's grandson has continued throughout the year with the acquisition of Orangina Schwepps in order to increase the company's market share overseas and ongoing talks over a merger with rival Kirin.

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