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Family Business Roundup: Korean Air, JCB, and Sika

Korean Air third-gen Heather Cho freed; JCB boss backs Brexit; and Sika founding family sues directors

Korean Air third-gen Heather Cho freed

Former Korean Airlines executive Heather Cho has been released from jail after an appeals court ruled she did not violate aviation safety laws when she forced a plane to return to its gate because she felt her macadamia nuts were incorrectly served.

The Seoul High Court ruled that 40-year-old Heather Cho Hyun Ah, who has been in jail since December, did not break the aviation security law, typically reserved for hijacking cases, and said her actions did not pose a safety threat.

“The accused had no intention of hampering the safe operation of the plane,” high court judge Kim Sang-Hwan  said, handing down a reduced sentence of 10 months, suspended for two years.

The court, however, upheld her conviction for hampering the plane’s operations and violence against the cabin crew. Park Chang-jin, the chief steward that was the focus of Cho’s attack, has filed a civil law suit against the next gen, alleging that she made him beg for forgiveness while she poked him with a manual.

The incident has also inspired South Korean politicians to propose new legislation aimed at abuses of power and misconduct in family-run conglomerates, and has been affectionately nicknamed the “Cho Hyun-ah law”.

JCB boss backs Brexit

Graeme Macdonald, the non-family chief executive of British machinery giant JCB, has said the UK should not fear an exit from the European Union, adding that it would not “make a blind bit of difference” to trade.

“There has been far too much scaremongering about things like jobs. I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest to stop trade. I don’t think we or Brussels will put up trade barriers,” he said.

The Staffordshire-based construction company is one of the first British family businesses to break ranks and publicly dismiss concerns about the country exiting the European Union.

In a separate interview, JCB chairman Lord Bamford told the BBC that the UK “could negotiate as our own country rather than being one of 28 nations in Brussels as we are today.”

JCB is the UK’s largest family-owned facilities management group – and has operations in five continents. The 70-year-old company had revenues of £2.7 billion ($4.1 billion) in 2012.

Sika founding family sues directors

The founding family behind Swiss chemicals maker Sika is suing three of the company’s directors for attempting to block the sale of their stake in Saint-Gobain and are seeking $18.9 million in damages.

Schenker-Winkler Holding AG, the family’s investment vehicle, claim that Christoph Tobler, Ulrich Suter and Monika Ribar caused the company to incur unnecessary costs when they fought the proposed sale to the French company.

“The so-called independent members of the board have been fighting against the transaction, regardless of the interests of the Sika shareholders,” a spokesman for SWH told the Wall Street Journal.

Sika was founded by Kaspar Winkler in 1910. The controlling Burkard family owned 16.1% of Sika’s share capital but 52.4% of its voting rights. The sale to Saint-Gobain will allow the Burkard family to exit before handing over to the fifth generation.

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