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Family business confectioner Michele Ferrero dies, aged 89

By Jessica Tasman-Jones

Italian confectioner Michele Ferrero, who created Kinder eggs and Ferrero Rocher for his eponymous family business, died over the weekend, aged 89.

The second gen passed away in Monaco, where he lived, on Valentine's Day – one of the chocolate industry's most important dates of the year. He had been suffering from illness for the past couple of months.

Although the business has been in the third generation for almost two decades, Ferrero was considered the main decision maker.

In the years preceding his death, the patriarch had rejected offers by rival Nestle to take over the business, which is headquartered in Alba, in Italy's northwest.

The eponymous family business was founded by Ferrero's father, Pietro, who developed the recipe for Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread during the Second World War, when cocoa was rationed. The spread is often labeled “hazelnut cream” due to its low concentration of cocoa solids.

Ferrero took control of the family business in 1949, aged just 24, following his father's death. He developed Kinder chocolate in 1968, Tic Tacs the next year, and Ferrero Rocher in 1982.

Ferrero led the company for five decades, passing control to his sons, Giovanni and Pietro, in 1997.

He was notoriously media shy – never giving an interview, despite being head of a chocolate company that rivaled Hershey's and the confectionary division of Nestle in terms of scale. In 2013, the company had revenues of €8.9 billion.

Tragically, Pietro, the son reported to be most interested in leading the family business, died suddenly in 2011, and today Giovanni has sole leadership responsibility.

The Ferrero family overtook former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in terms of wealth in 2008, and are today worth $23.4 billion, according to Forbes.

A wake for the family patriarch will be held at the company's headquarters in Alba, and his funeral will take place at the town's cathedral. 

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