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Family business roundup: Emil Frey and Shaw Media expand, Parmalat criticised over acquisition

Two family businesses in Switzerland and the US have made acquisitions this week, while the French Besnier family, which controls dairy business Parmalat, was reportedly criticised by the company’s minority shareholders over a recent acquisition.

Two family businesses in Switzerland and the US have made acquisitions this week, while the French Besnier family, which controls dairy business Parmalat, was reportedly criticised by the company’s minority shareholders over a recent acquisition.

In Switzerland, the Emil Frey Group, a family business that distributes cars for brands such as Toyota, Lexus, Mitsubishi and Aston Martin, expanded into the car rental sector.

The Zurich-based firm, which had revenues of more than $2 billion (€1.6 billion) in 2011, joined the franchise network of Hertz and will operate 30 branches of the car rental firm in Switzerland.

In North America, Shaw Media also made an acquisition. The company, a publisher of local newspapers and magazines in Illinois and Iowa, acquired Suburban Life Publications from media group GateHouse Media.

Suburban Life publishes about 20 weekly newspapers in Chicago’s western suburbs, including Elmhurst Press, Wheaton Leader and Berwyn Life. The group will be headed by family member J Tom Shaw, the son of Shaw Media’s current president and chief executive Tom Shaw.

Founded in 1861, when Benjamin Flower Shaw started publishing the Dixon Telegraph, Shaw Media shares its name with the television unit of Shaw Communications, the family-controlled Canadian media giant.

Meanwhile, according to reports in the financial press, the Besnier family was criticised over its management of Parmalat, the Italian food company in which it holds an 83% stake.

In May, the family led Parmalat’s acquisition of Lactalis America Group for $904 million. The company was previously a part of dairy giant Lactalis, also controlled by the same family. At the time of the acquisition, Parmalat said the move would give it better access to the US market.

However, two of Parmalat’s minority shareholders, Gamco Asset Management and Fidelity Worldwide Investment, have accused the Besniers of using Parmalat’s cash to pursue its own interest.  

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