Margarita Louis-Dreyfus digs her heels in at late husband’s family business

Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, an orphan raised in Leningrad, is now a billionaire and chairman of Louis Dreyfus Commodities. She faces an impasse with the family but is standing her ground, according to an interview with the married-in businesswoman in the Financial Times.

Before her husband, Robert Louis-Dreyfus, died of leukemia in 2009, he brought Margarita up to speed on his family’s trading house. She was named chair in 2011, but has been at odds with the rest of the family, who triggered a clause in their shareholder agreement forcing her to buy most remaining shares in the trading house’s parent, Louis Dreyfus Holding (LDH). Disagreements over the value (up to $1 billion) have gone to arbitration.

“Robert asked me to do this,” Louis-Dreyfus told the FT. “I am a guardian of the company’s interests.”

Louis-Dreyfus has increased her stake in LDH to 80% from 65% and will own 96% once the buyout of the family shareholders is completed.

“A family company needs to have one shareholder with a supermajority,” she said in the FT interview. “It ensures the orientation of the company is on long-term development as opposed to short-term gain, and the interests of the business are supported in one united voice.”  (Source: Financial Times, March 19, 2017.)