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Europe’s great family dynasties come together for a deal

Italy’s Agnelli family has sold its stake in inspection and verification business SGS to Belgium’s richest man Baron Albert Frere, in a deal that underlines the links between some of the world’s wealthiest business families.

Italy’s Agnelli family has sold its stake in inspection and verification business SGS to Belgium’s richest man Baron Albert Frere, in a deal that underlines the links between some of the world’s wealthiest business families.

The Agnelli-controlled holding group Exor banked a €1.5 billion net gain on the sale of its 15% stake in SGS to Groupe Bruxelles Lambert, which is controlled by Frere and the French-Canadian Paul Desmarais and his family.

Exor said the money from the sale would be deployed in new investment opportunities. John Elkann, chairman and chief executive officer of Exor, said: “We have been delighted with our investment in SGS, which has long constituted for us a blueprint for the kind of outstanding company and management team with which we seek to be associated.”

SGS is partly owned by the von Finck family, another of Europe’s wealthiest family dynasties.

For Exor, the SGS deal exemplifies its strategy of investing in businesses for the long term. Exor held its stake in SGS for 13 years during which the market capitalisation of the business quadrupled.

Exor often invests in businesses where there is a family link, which fits with its long-term holding strategy. A year ago, the Turin company took a 2% stake in Paris Orleans, the holding company of the Rothschild Group. Exor has also teamed up with family-owned Jardine Matheson and Rothschild in a private equity partnership in China and India. 

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