Sweet tributes to Nutella billionaire

(Reuters Business Report) – He spent five decades building the Ferrero brand into a global chocolate and confectionary empire.

Some called Michele Ferrero a real life Willy Wonka having created Nutella, Kinda Eggs and of course Ferrero Rocher.

And although he was a man of few words who shunned publicity, his death at the weekend sparked a wave of public sympathy.

A family man, who kept his business private.

Quentin Webb, is from Reuters Breakingviews.

Quentin Webb, Associate Editor, Reuters Breakingviews,

“He had a kind of entrepreneurs work ethic. He became chief executive in 1957 and held that role for 40 years and even after he passed control to his two sons he continued to commute to work regularly by helicopter.”

The original Nutella paste was first developed by Ferrero’s father after the second World War.

Using hazelnuts instead of cocoa because they were plentiful in northern Italy and crucially cheaper.

Unusually the group has only ever made one acquisition and that was just last year when it bought a Turkish hazelnut factory.

Although it had eyed Cadbury in 2009.

Quentin Webb, Associate Editor, Reuters Breakingviews,
“As far as we know both they and Hershey had thought about a bid, maybe a joint bid for Cadbury when Kraft as it was then was trying to take the company over and that came to nothing both I think were hamstrung from a private nature and their lack of easy access to capital and their comparative inexperience in public markets.”

Ferrero hasn’t been without tragedy.

Michele’s eldest son Pietro was killed in a cycling accident in 2011.

His surviving son Giovanni has been running the business ever since.

But some are now wondering if the death of the man described by Forbes magazine as “the richest candyman on the planet”, worth a sweet $23 billion, leaves the company vulnerable.

Some say it could opt to go public.

But with the family likely to retain a controlling stake.