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Italian confectionary giant will stay in family hands

The third-gen chief executive of Italian confectioner Ferrero has rejected speculation the company is to be sold to Nestle, as questions about succession loom over the family firm.
Nutella, one of Ferrero's most famous brands invented by its founder

The third-gen chief executive of Italian confectioner Ferrero has rejected speculation the company is to be sold to Nestle, as questions about succession loom over the family firm.

Giovanni Ferrero released a statement on Thursday saying the company had been approached by rival foods conglomerate Nestle, but that it was not for sale.

Commentators, however, think the company's future is far from decided, especially since the death of Ferrero's co-chief executive, Giovanni's elder brother Pietro, in 2011 from a heart attack at the age of 47.

According to media reports, industry insiders think Giovanni is not as interested in running the company as his brother was before his death. 

But it's the media-shy family business patriarch, 88-year-old Michele Ferrero – the man who turned Ferrero into an international brand – who is still the main decision maker at the company, a source told Reuters.

They said: "If he realises that his family is not in a position to run the company, he would maybe sell it. In any case, it is Michele who decides as he controls the company."

Ferrero is now one of Italy's most valuable private companies, and saw revenues of €7.8 billion in fiscal 2012, seeing growth of 8% compared to 2011 despite Italy's economic downturn, and its brands include brands include, Nutella, Kinder, Ferrero Rocher and Kinder. 

The Ferrero family now have a net worth of $20.4 billion (€14.9 billion), according to Forbes, and are Italy's richest family – overtaking former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in 2008.

Although Ferrero is off limits, Nestle has several other large Italian brands in its stable, including pasta-maker Buitoni, chocolate company Perugina and mineral water label San Pellegrino.  

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