Billionaire Louis-Dreyfus Finds a Pricey Escape From Debt Drama

Billionaire Louis-Dreyfus Finds a Costly Escape From Debt Drama

Margarita Louis-Dreyfus 

Photographer: Nicolas Tucat/AFP/Getty Photographs

Margarita Louis-Dreyfus instantly turned a key shareholder in one of many largest commodity merchants in 2009. She then spent a lot of the subsequent decade locked in battles along with her late husband’s household, fights that left her in sole management of Louis Dreyfus Co. however determined for money to repay the debt she accrued alongside the way in which.

On Wednesday, Louis-Dreyfus, 58, introduced a approach out of the squeeze, with a deal to promote 45% of the eponymous dealer to an Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund that ought to increase sufficient cash to cowl her money owed. By conserving management, the Russian-born heiress can nonetheless make good on targets she outlined in a 2012 interview: persevering with husband Robert Louis-Dreyfus’s work and conserving the corporate named after the household.

However it’s come at a worth — and never simply the billions of {dollars} of offers and debt over years of feuding along with her French in-laws. Louis-Dreyfus purchased out members of the family at comparatively excessive valuations as she elevated her stake from simply over 50% when Robert died to the 96% she at present holds. Whereas the worth of the Abu Dhabi sale wasn’t disclosed, individuals acquainted with the matter mentioned it was roughly primarily based on the corporate’s e book worth. That means it’s more likely to be decrease than the worth at which Louis-Dreyfus consolidated her stake.

The settlement with Abu Dhabi’s ADQ caps greater than a decade of upheaval that started when Robert, the great-grandson of French founder Leopold Louis-Dreyfus, died of leukemia 11 years in the past at age 63. Margarita’s period has reworked what was as soon as a staid and secretive family-controlled grain service provider into an organization that can now open up its capital to an out of doors shareholder for the primary time in its 169-year historical past.

It’s a narrative of high-pressure deal-making and backstabbing that’s pitted a French institution household in opposition to an heiress backed by a number of the strongest names of the Zurich banking clique.

When Margarita inherited the stake in LDC’s holding firm, it was a golden interval for buying and selling: the corporate was making a whole lot of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} and operated in actual property, forestry and U.S. vitality buying and selling, along with the eponymous agriculture enterprise.

Quickly after Robert died, she started transferring to dictate enterprise technique, clashing with the manager her husband had left answerable for the conglomerate, Jacques Veyrat.

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