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Modern icons

Marc Smith is acting editor of Families in Business.

I am writing this on the eve of my first visit to the FBN's annual summit in Berlin, which should be a good opportunity to meet some of you – our readers – and listen to such dignitaries as the former German chancellor Helmut Kohl. Dr Kohl oversaw the falling of the Berlin Wall and it is perhaps fitting that the theme of the conference is "The modern family business".

Modernity is certainly one word that could be attributed to the way that Newman's Own, the company headed by Hollywood superstar Paul Newman, goes about its business. As a form of for-profit enterprise, all of the proceeds from the business go straight back into a range of charities, as Paul Newman exclusively tells us on page 28.

In addition to an American icon, we meet two French families whose businesses have grown from iconic emblems of France to become well-known global brands. Antoine Fievet, the fifth-generation CEO of Groupe Bel, tells us about expansion and marketing at the makers of  Laughing Cow and Babybel cheeses.

Plus we get a behind-the-scenes look at one Europe's wealthiest families – the secretive Mulliez clan who own a vast retail empire.

Retail is one of the sectors that has been affected greatly by the M&A boom over the past 12 months, and we take an in-depth, global look at the impact M&A activity has had on family businesses in this issue's Special Report.

Our finance section looks at real estate investment, and suggests how and where you can best invest your wealth in this fast-moving asset class. Succession forms the basis of our governance section this issue, as our experts look at ways to minimise risk when handing over to the next generation and the best way to ensure knowledge doesn't depart with the exiting generation. We also get the middle eastern viewpoint on succession in one of our two roundtable discussions.

We look at two notable deals involving business-owning families in our news section.

Finally, if you're one of the many who are thinking about upgrading to a private jet then our lifestyle feature should give you plenty of ideas.

As always we hope you the issue informative and entertaining, and welcome any feedback you may have.

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