TIMELINE-Louis Dreyfus opens up to outside investment after decade-long shareholder saga

PARIS, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Commodity merchant Louis Dreyfus Company has agreed to sell a large stake to Abu Dhabi-based holding company ADQ, opening itself up to outside investment for the first time after a decade of uncertainty over its family ownership.

2009 Robert Louis-Dreyfus, head of the group and great-grandson of founder Leopold Louis-Dreyfus, dies in July. His wife, Russian-born Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, inherits control of the group through the Akira family trust. 2010 Margarita Louis-Dreyfus and Chief Executive Jacques Veyrat study options for bringing in outside investors to help fund expansion. Merger talks are held with Singapore-based commodity group Olam International.

2011 LDC and Olam break off merger talks. LDC also considers a stock market listing and a merger deal with diversified commodity giant Glencore, according to media reports. Veyrat leaves the group. Serge Schoen, head of LDC’s main commodity trading business, becomes CEO. 2012 Family minority shareholders ask to sell a 15% stake in LDC’s holding company to Margarita Louis-Dreyfus’ Akira trust, exercising an option established by Robert Louis-Dreyfus.

2013 LDC announces a record net profit of $1 billion for 2012. Serge Schoen resigns after eight years as head of the commodities business, and is replaced by head trader Ciro Echesortu. 2014 LDC reports much lower profits for 2013 as rising supply and stiffening competition hit margins. Margarita Louis-Dreyfus tells the Financial Times she would consider a share listing or a tie-up with a partner.

Ciro Echesortu steps down as CEO after a year. Chief Financial Officer Claude Ehlinger becomes interim CEO.

LDC nominates Mayo Schmidt, a former head of Canadian grain handler Viterra, as CEO before cancelling the appointment. 2015 Margarita Louis-Dreyfus announces she has raised her stake in the group’s holding company to 80% from 65% via the Akira trust, after agreeing terms on the sale option exercised by other family members in 2012. Minority family members ask Akira to buy another 16.6%. LDC ends its hunt for a CEO by promoting former Asia head Gonzalo Ramirez Martiarena.

2016 Ramirez confirms the group is seeking partners to invest in activities such as fertiliser distribution, as it reports a decade-low net profit of $211 million for 2015.

2017 Margarita Louis-Dreyfus and minority shareholders agree to go to arbitration to settle the second share sale proposed in 2015. LDC agrees to sell its profitable metals trading business to a Chinese investment fund for more than $400 million.

2018 The group announces in September the departure of CEO Ramirez and CFO Armand Lumens. Company veteran Ian McIntosh is named CEO.

The group reports a $1 billion loan to its holding firm to cover a bailout of Brazilian sugar subsidiary Biosev.

Margarita Louis-Dreyfus announces she has secured a bank loan to cover the buyout of minority shares. 2019 Margarita Louis-Dreyfus concludes the second buyout of minority shares, taking her stake in the holding firm to 96%. LDC later says it could sell a stake in its capital to a regional player. LDC forms an alliance with Chinese retail chain Luckin Coffee Inc.

2020 In January, Margarita Louis-Dreyfus tells Reuters that LDC is open to selling a large non-controlling stake to an external stakeholder. LDC names COO Michael Gelchie to be new CEO as McIntosh retires. LDC holds talks with ADQ about selling a stake, Bloomberg reports in September.

The group reports higher interim profits, but its equity declines to $4.5 billion. In November it announces an agreement with ADQ under which the Abu Dhabi investment firm will acquire an indirect 45% stake in LDC. (Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Jan Harvey)


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