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Family business roundup: Winning some and losing some in media, cars and casinos

It’s been a case of winning some and losing some for family businesses across the globe, through a series of acquisitions, closures and deal-breakers.

It’s been a case of winning some and losing some for family businesses across the globe, through a series of acquisitions, closures and deal-breakers.

Leading the way is media group Bertelsmann, controlled by the Mohn family, which is linking up with UK rival Pearson.

The agreement will see the merger of Random House and Penguin, respectively the publishing arms of Germany’s Bertelsmann and Pearson.

A statement on 29 October said Bertelsmann will own 53% of the new company – to be named Penguin Random House – while the rest will be held by the British partner.

Non-family chairman and chief executive of Bertelsmann Thomas Rabe described the move as a “milestone” for the family business, adding it will enable the firm to “publish even more effectively across traditional and emerging formats and distribution channels”.

The agreement between the two groups follows news that the Murdoch family-controlled News Corp had also bid to merge publisher HarperCollins with Penguin.

But John Makinson, who will become executive chairman at the newly formed group, told the Guardian the deal between Pearson and Bertelsmann was a “signed transaction” and it would not be accepting Murdoch’s offer.

Meanwhile, speculation is rife that Yattendon Group, a UK-based firm owned by the Iliffe family, is in talks about pooling its local newspaper titles with those of Northcliffe Media.

The new company, to be reportedly named Local World, will include Northcliffe’s regional publications – such as the Bristol Post and the Derby Telegraph – and Yattendon’s titles including Cambridge News and Hertfordshire Mercury.

Besides media, the Iliffe family’s interests include agriculture, property and leisure – the group operates across the UK, Europe and Canada. Northcliffe is a part of British conglomerate the Daily Mail and General Trust, which is controlled by the Rothermere family.

Down under, Crown Limited – the Australian casino group controlled by the Packer family – has won regulatory approval to build a luxury hotel with gambling facilities in Sydney.

The company submitted a proposal in September to construct the six-star hotel, which has now cleared the first stage of approval.

Meanwhile, one business in the UK is going all out to boost its operations in emerging economies. JCB, the construction equipment-maker controlled by the Bamford family, is investing $100 million (€77.5 million) to build a new production facility in India.

On the eve of its 67th birthday last week, the group said it will build its fourth factory in Jaipur. JCB currently has one plant near New Delhi and two in Pune.

But things don’t seem as rosy for carmaker Ford, which is shutting down three plants in Europe – a move expected to reduce costs by $450 million in the next three years.

The decision comes on the back of declining sales in Europe, hard hit by the eurozone crisis – family-owned Ford is expecting a loss of $1.5 billion in the continent this year.

Meanwhile, French beauty products-maker Coty, which traces its roots to 1904 and is controlled by the eponymous family, has decided to end one of its well-known partnerships – for a fragrance license with designer Karl Lagerfeld.

In a release on 24 October, Jean Mortier, president of Coty Prestige, said the decision to sever ties with Lagerfeld was made as it “became increasingly apparent that our companies’ respective strategies were no longer a perfect match”.

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