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James Murdoch reelected as BSkyB chairman

James Murdoch has been reelected as chairman of the British Sky Broadcasting television service. Murdoch is also deputy chief operation officer of News Corp., which owns 39% of BSkyB shares.

The Los Angeles Times' "Company Town" blog noted that only 55% of the independent shareholders voted to retain Murdoch on the board. Nearly 32% opposed his reelection, and the other 12.% withheld their votes, the article said.

According to a Financial Times report:

One institutional investor took the unusual step of standing up to raise concerns about whether Mr. Murdoch could manage potential conflicts of interest as a member of the family that controls News Corp. BSkyB's biggest shareholder.

In the aftermath of its phone-hacking scandal, News Corp. withdrew its bid to buy the remaining shares of BSkyB in July. (Sources: "Company Town," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 30, 2011; Financial Times, Nov. 30, 2011.)

Toyota’s commitment to domestic production is tested

Toyota president Akio Toyoda, grandson of the founder, has voiced his commitment to protecting Japanese jobs and promised to build at least 3 million vehicles per year in Japan. But because the yen is at record highs against the U.S. dollar and sales are declining in the U.S., that commitment is being tested, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The article said that Toyota is losing $5 billion a year in the Japanese market, and the strong yen has shrunk profits on exports.

The report noted that in 1995 Hiroshi Okuda, then Toyota's president, first pledged that the company would produce at least 3 million vehicles annually in Japan. When Toyoda became president in 2009, he reiterated the pledge, though competitors were doing more manufacturing overseas.

Toyota's commitment went hand-in-hand with an ascendant view held by some -- including Mr. Toyoda's father, honorary chairman Shoichiro Toyoda -- that the company had become too focused on short-term goals.
There was a sense that employees, for one, deserved as much attention as shareholders. Mr. Toyoda went a step further, speaking of a broader corporate responsibility to protect the Japanese economy.

(Source: Wall Street Journal, Nov. 29, 2011.)

Calif. bank heir pleads guilty to theft from account

A fifth-generation member of the family that founded Farmers & Mechanics Bank in Southern California has pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $2 million from a customer's account, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Matthew J. Walker, who managed the bank's Laguna Hills branch, admitted to stealing the money by taking advances from a customer's line of credit and making interest payments on the loan to hide the theft. His attorney said he used the stolen money for a failed investment, the article said.

Walker's father Daniel, is president of the bank, which was founded in 1907 by rancher C.J. Walker and is one of the oldest banks in Southern California, the article said.

Daniel Walker said the bank discovered the theft during a routine audit, immediately reimbursed the customer and fired his son. The loss was covered by insurance, he said.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 21. Citing a news release from the U.S. attorney's office, the LA Times said Matthew Walker can expect a four-year prison sentence. (Source: Los Angeles Times, Nov. 29, 2011.)

Schusterman family sells most of its oil business to KKR

An investor group led by KKR & Co. has agreed to acquire most of Samson Investment Co., a family-owned oil and natural gas company based in Tulsa, Okla., for $7.2 billion. The transaction is the year's largest corporate leveraged buyout, Bloomberg reported.

The investor group will buy all of Samson's assets except its onshore Gulf Coast and deep-water Gulf of Mexico assets. The Schusterman family, which founded the company in 1971, will continue to own the Gulf assets, the article said.

Samson owns interests in more than 10,000 wells, including 4,000 that it operates in the U.S., the Bloomberg report said.

Samson's founder, petroleum engineer Charles Schusterman, died in 2000. His daughter, Stacy Schusterman, became co-CEO in 1999 and assumed full control in 2005, the article said. An accompanying Bloomberg profile said Samson was the largest U.S. oil and gas company with a woman as CEO.

When her father was diagnosed with leukemia in 1983, he chose Stacy over her two brothers as his successor, the article said.

During her tenure as CEO, Stacy Schusterman gradually shifted the company's drilling strategy to take on riskier, more expensive projects and include more oil in the company's portfolio. She sold Samson's international assets to refocus on U.S. shale fields....

(Sources: Bloomberg, Nov. 25, 2011.)

James Murdoch quits boards; brother denies lobbying

James Murdoch has left the boards of operating companies that oversee News Corp.'s U.K. newspapers, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, which is owned by News Corp.

Although James Murdoch has resigned from the boards of the subsidiary companies of News International, the conglomerate's U.K. newspaper unit, he remains News International's chairman and a director of the holding company for the Times and the Sunday Times, the report noted.

Meanwhile, James's brother Lachlan Murdoch has denied allegations that he was involved in an attempt by News Corp.'s Australian unit in the 1990s to offer favorable coverage to politicians if they supported legislation related to digital television, a separate Journal article said. Lachlan Murdoch stepped down as News Corp.'s deputy chief operating officer in 2005. News Corp. has denied the claims, which were made by former Australian legislator Bill O'Chee and are being investigated by Australian police. (Sources: Wall Street Journal, Nov. 25, 2011 and Nov. 28, 2011.)

Ratan Tata’s successor is named

Cyrus Pallonji Mistry has been named the successor to Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata, who will retire when he turns 75 in December 2012. Mistry will become the group's deputy chairman effective immediately, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Tata Group, founded in 1868 by Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, is India's largest conglomerate and comprises more than 100 companies, the Journal report noted. Mistry will be its sixth chairman.

"Although it was speculated that the next group chairman would also have a Tata surname, Mr. Mistry's appointment doesn't come as a surprise," the article said.

Cyrus Mistry is the younger son of Pallonji Mistry, the reclusive billionaire whose construction firm Shapoorji Pallonji & Co. is the biggest shareholder of Tata Sons [Tata Group's holding company] with a stake of about 18%. Cyrus, who has been on the Tata Sons board since August 2006, is managing director of Shapoorji Pallonji.

A subsequent Journal report noted that Mistry's sister is married to Ratan Tata's half-brother Noel Tata.

The Financial Times reported that Tata Group has more than 450,000 employees, compared with 23,000 at Mistry's family-owned group. Tata is a global conglomerate, while Shapoorji Pallonji & Co. operates predominantly in India, the report said.

The FT article said observers had hoped the group would pick an outsider as the successor.

Although the Tata Group is one of India's most professionally managed conglomerates, it is still run in a fairly conservative manner, resembling a traditional family owned business.

(Sources: Wall Street Journal, Nov. 24, 2011 and Nov. 25, 2011; Financial Times, Nov. 25, 2011.)

German Merck feuds with U.S. Merck over Facebook page

German drug maker Merck KGaA is suing Facebook Inc. in a New York City court, seeking an explanation for why administrative rights to was switched to Merck & Co., a separate U.S. company,the Wall Street Journal reported.

The German company said that in March 2010 it entered into an agreement with Facebook for exclusive use of the web page but discovered that Merck & Co. had taken over the page in October, according to the Journal report.

The two Mercks became separate companies under the Treaty of Versailles, each owning rights to the Merck trademark in different geographic areas, as part of Germany's reparations after World War I.

Merck KGaA, founded in 1668, is a family enterprise. (Source: Wall Street Journal, Nov. 25, 2011.)

Santander will sell stake in Chilean business

Banco Santander SA is planning to sell a stake of nearly 8% in its Chilean business, the Wall Street Journal reported. It also has announced plans to sell 8% of its Brazilian unit; the deals could raise a total of about $3.5 billion. Last month, it sold part of its auto-loan unit for about $1 billion; it also has recently offered to exchange some of its outstanding bonds to raise about $809 million, on unfavorable terms, the Journal article said.

[T]he terms and timing of Santander's moves are raising eyebrows in the investment community. Analysts have expressed surprise that the bank is selling chunks of two of its prized Latin American businesses.

Santander, based in Madrid, has claimed it is one of Europe's best-capitalized banks, and its subsidiaries in the U.S., the U.K. and Brazil have large amounts of capital. But its operations in Spain "appear to be running on relatively thin capital levels," the article said. (Source: Wall Street Journal, Nov. 23, 2011.)

Daio Paper’s former chairman arrested

Mototaka Ikawa, 47, former chairman of Japan's Daio Paper and grandson of the founder, was arrested on charges that he diverted more than $130 million from seven affiliated companies, primarily to fund his gambling habit, the Financial Times reported.

Ikawa's lawyer said he admitted borrowing more than 10 billion yen from the companies, the FT report said. Ikawa said he started gambling after losing money in the foreign exchange and futures markets.

Daio Paper's shares have dropped about 27%, and the company has been put on watch for potential delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange, the FT article said.

According to a committee hired by the company to investigate the matter, Ikawa borrowed money from affiliated companies and demanded that executives at the companies deposit money into his personal bank account. The executives did so without asking for collateral or seeking board approval for the loans, the FT reported. Ikawa told Daio Paper's auditor that he was using the money for new businesses.

Ikawa resigned as chairman when news of the loans surfaced in September. He has repaid about 4.5 billion yen and promises to repay the remainder with his own money and shares in companies related to Daio Paper. (Source: Financial Times, Nov. 23, 2011.)

Benihana Class A shares are reclassified

Benihana shareholders approved a plan to reclassify the company's Class A shares into common stock, ending a dispute at the company, the South Florida Business Journal reported.

The vote is a rebuff to Benihana of Tokyo, which is controlled by the widow of Benihana founder Rocky Aoki. Keiko Ono Aoki had vigorously lobbied against the conversion.
The move was expected to dilute Benihana of Tokyo's voting power to 12.1 percent from 26.8 percent.

Benihana's managers were in favor of the conversion, the article said. (Source: South Florida Business Journal, Nov. 21, 2011.)

Rupert Murdoch sells non-voting News Corp. shares

News Corporation chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch has sold almost all of his non-voting shares in the company, the New York Times' "Media Decoder" blog reported. Murdoch still controls the company because of its dual-class share structure, the report noted.

Citing an SEC filing, the report said Murdoch sold 3.63 million Class A non-voting shares, valued at about $62 million. The family retains a 40% stake in the company's Class B voting shares.

A source told the Times that the sell-off was related to Murdoch's estate planning. (Source: "Media Decoder," New York Times, Nov. 21, 2011.)

Bouygues family increase their stake in company

Through their holding company, the Bouygues family have increased their voting stake in their French industrial company, Bouygues SA, according to a Bloomberg report.

The holding company, SCDM, now holds 18.4% of the company's capital and 26.5% of its voting rights. The combined stake held by the family's companies and held directly by second-generation brothers Martin and Olivier Bouygues is now 21.1%, with 29.8% of the voting rights, according to the report.

The company has holdings in telecom, media and construction. (Source: Bloomberg, Nov. 19, 2011.)

Toll Brothers to acquire Seattle builder

Toll Brothers, based in Horsham, Pa., will acquire Seattle builder CamWest Development LLC, the Wall Street Journal reported. The price was not disclosed.

The deal, which moves the luxury developer into the Pacific Northwest, is a rare example of an acquisition in the hard-hit home-building sector, which continues limping through the worst housing downturn in decades.

The Journal report noted that Toll's shares have fallen less than 1% this year, while Hovanian Enterprises Inc.'s shares have dropped nearly 70%.

Toll's last acquisition was Florida's Landstar Homes in 2005, the article said. (Source: Wall Street Journal, Nov. 21, 2011.)

Mars makes third round of Wrigley job cuts

More than 100 Chicago-based employees will lose their jobs as Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. restructures its North American business, Crain's Chicago Business reported.

The move is the third round of job cuts since Mars Inc. bought Wrigley in 2008, the article said. In 2009, 137 workers were let go in two rounds of cuts, the report noted. (Source: Crain's Chicago Business, Nov. 17, 2011.)

Laura Shapira Karet succeeds her father at Giant Eagle

Laura Shapira Karet has been named CEO of grocery chain Giant Eagle Inc., the Pittsburgh Business Times reported. She succeeds her father, David Shapira, who had been CEO since 1980. David Shapira will become chairman of the board.

Karet previously was the company's chief merchandising officer and had also served as senior executive vice president and chief strategy officer. From 1997 to 2000 she worked at Sara Lee in several marketing executive positions. From 1990 to 1997, she served in brand management roles at Procter & Gamble, the journal article said.

Giant Eagle operates stores in western Pennsylvania, Ohio, northern West Virginia and western Maryland. The company was founded when the Goldstein/Shapira, Porter and Chait families, who operated Eagle Grocery, joined with the Moravitz and Weizenbaum families, who operated OK Grocery. The first Giant Eagle supermarket opened in 1936. (Source: Pittsburgh Business Times, Nov. 16, 2011.)

Former Levi’s executive named CEO of American Eagle Outfitters

Robert Hanson, formerly global brand president at Levi Strauss & Co., has been named CEO of American Eagle Outfitters, the San Francisco Business Times reported. Both companies are family-controlled and publicly traded.

Hanson had spent 23 years with Levi Strauss before announcing his retirement in early November, the business journal reported. He will also serve on American Eagle's board of directors. (Source: San Francisco Business Times, Nov. 15, 2011.)

Cardone Industries to be acquired by investment firm

Cardone Industries, a Philadelphia-based automotive parts remanufacturing firm, has agreed to be acquired by TPG Capital L.P. a private investment firm, the parties announced.

TPG will become the controlling shareholder. The transaction is expected to close at the end of 2011.

TPG said in a statement that it will "work with the Cardone family and executive team to continue the company's growth."

Chairman and CEO Michael Cardone Jr. said in the statement, "The acquisition of Cardone by TPG will strengthen our position to pursue new product lines and further enhance our competitiveness within the industry."

Ireland’s Quinn declares bankruptcy; bank challenges ruling

Sean Quinn, whose family construction and insurance businesses once had up to 5,000 employees, declared bankruptcy in Belfast, citing debts of 2.9 billion euros to Anglo Irish Bank, The Guardian reported.

Quinn, who got his start extracting gravel form his family farm in 1973. His five children all worked in his family enterprises, the article said. Quinn Insurance has been sold to the U.S.-based Liberty Mutual Group.

Quinn "is alleged to still control a property empire stretching from Russia and North America to the Middle East," The Guardian's article said.

Because he declared bankruptcy under Northern Ireland law, he has to wait only a year before going back into business. If he had filed under the stricter laws of the Republic of Ireland, he would have had to wait for 12 years. According to The Guardian:

In the Irish media, Quinn has been portrayed as a wild speculator who gambled a successful family business on the property market using Anglo Irish Bank to fund his investments across the world. But Quinn sought to depict himself and his family as victims of a smear campaign.

The Irish Independent reported that Anglo Irish Bank, which has since been nationalized and is now know as the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, will challenge Quinn's bankruptcy filing in Belfast, disputing his claim that he is a resident of Northern Ireland.

The Independent also reported that the bank will investigate why Quinn sold land to his five children for 100,000 euros weeks before he filed for bankruptcy. (Sources: The Guardian, Nov. 11, 2011; The Irish Independent, Nov. 14, 2011 and Nov. 15, 2011.)

In testimony, James Murdoch says he was unaware

Observers who watched James Murdoch's second appearance before a committee of U.K. Parliament investigating the phone-hacking scandal at News Corp. told Bloomberg that the company's deputy chief operating officer "left the impression he wasn't in control of the company."

Murdoch, son of News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, "obviously decided that it's better to be the man who didn't know than the man who didn't do anything about it," Stewart Purvis, a professor of television journalism at London's City University, told Bloomberg.

According to the Bloomberg report, Labour Party member Tom Watson, who has led the phone-hacking inquiry, said:

"It's plausible that he didn't know, but if he didn't know he wasn't asking the question that a chief executive officer should be asking."

(Source: Bloomberg, Nov. 11, 2011.)

Weis Markets chairman’s son gets raise, bonus

Jonathan Weis, son of Weis Markets chairman Robert Weis and vice chairman and secretary of the company, will receive a retroactive raise of 3.5% and a newly created award that could cost shareholders $1 million a year, the business blog reported.

Weis Markets, based in Sunbury, Pa., operates in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and West Virginia. The Weis family and other insiders own nearly 60% of the shares.

Citing a recently filed 8-K form, reported that a new employment agreement, signed November 3 but retroactive to July 1, pays Jonathan Weis a base salary of $669,500 -- a 3.5% increase. In addition, a "Vice Chairman Incentive Award Plan," also retroactive to July 1, gives Weis a retention award equal to his base salary, effectively doubling his pay, the blog report noted.

The Award Plan also gives Weis a "profit performance award" equal to his salary if the company's net income increases by 5% over the preceding year. The article said:

Starting next year ... he could conceivably receive $669,500 as a base salary and up to twice that -- or $1.339 million -- in the form of the new Vice Chairman Incentive Award.

Jonathan Weis has been in his current position since 2004. He has been with the company since 1989, the blog post noted. (Source:, Nov. 9, 2011.)

PPR will buy family-owned Brioni

French luxury goods group PPR will acquire Brioni, an Italian high-end menswear group that has provided the costumes for James Bond in the film series, the Financial Times reported. PPR will buy 100% of family-owned Brioni; the price wasn't disclosed.

Analysts have estimated that the company is worth about 350 million euros, the FT article said. Brioni "has struggled in recent years," the report noted.

The family shareholders could not agree on strategy. which led them to decide to look for external investors. [Brioni] shut its women's wear line this year to focus on its men's because it did not have the resources to develop two, according to Brioni executives.

PPR is headed by billionaire François-Henri Pinault. Earlier this year, Italian jeweler Bulgari was acquired by another French conglomerate, LVMH, fraying diplomatic relations between Italy and France, the FT report noted. (Source: Financial Times, Nov. 8, 2011.)

Mukesh and Anil Ambani discussing a deal

The feuding Ambani brothers are discussing the possibility of cooperating in the telecommunications sector, the Financial Times reported.

Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries is considering using Anil Ambani's Reliance Communications' tower infrastructure to launch its broadband and wireless Internet services, the FT article said. Mukesh is "the elder and richer" brother. Reliance Communications had a net debt of about $7 billion at the end of March 2011, according to the report.

Analysts have long speculated that Mukesh Ambani could bid for his brother Anil's telecoms assets at the right price. Reliance Industries needs the infrastructure to power its Internet business after it acquired Infotel, the only company to have won an India-wide allocation of fourth-generation spectrum in an auction.

Their discussions have "ignited speculation" that the brothers "may reunite the business empire founded by their late father and conclude one of Asia's biggest dynastic battles," the FT report said. Mukesh and Anil "still rarely speak to each other," the article noted. (Source: Financial Times, Nov. 2, 2011.)

Report: Murdochs sought family counseling

Siblings James, Lachlan, Elisabeth and Prudence Murdoch sought family counseling to discuss the issue of succession at News Corp., Vanity Fair reported. James's older siblings told him "that if they worked together as siblings they could help him and their father [chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch] have a better relationship, and that together the kids could hold Rupert to account to be a mentor to James and not undermine him."

The Vanity Fair report said Elisabeth blamed James "for allowing the phone-hacking crisis to spiral out of control."

The article said that Rupert Murdoch's second wife, Anna -- the mother of Elisabeth, Lachlan and James, urged her ex-husband to publicly back James.

Meanwhile, News Corp. announced that it incurred a $91 million restructuring charge and a $68 million hit to its publishing profits in its fiscal first-quarter results, stemming largely from closing News of the World, according to a Financial Times report. (Sources: Vanity Fair, December 2011; Financial Times, Nov. 2, 2011.)

Syms, Filene’s Basement file for bankruptcy

Discount retailer Syms Corp. and its subsidiary, Filene's Basement LLC, have filed for bankruptcy protection and plan to close all 46 of their stores, the New York Times reported. The stores employ about 2,450 people, the Times article said.

Syms acquired Filene's out of bankruptcy protection in 2009 for $62.4 million.

CEO Marcy Syms, daughter of Syms founder Sy Syms, issued a statement saying that the two discount chains fell victim to department store sales of the same brands at similar discounts, an increase in the number of private label discounters, and less overstock available for her firm to buy because major brands practiced better inventory management in the economic downturn. (Source: New York Times, Nov. 2, 2011.)

Anheuser-Busch heir launches new beer company

William K. "Billy" Busch, son of the late Anheuser-Busch CEO August A. Busch Jr., has introduced a new beer brand, called Kräftig, the St. Louis Business Journal reported. Kräftig Lager and Kräftig Light will be available in the St. Louis area; plans call for the brand to expand beyond the region.

The beers are being brewed under contract in LaCrosse, Wis. The companies that will distribute the new German lagers in Missouri and Illinois do not handle Anheuser-Busch InBev products, the report noted.

During a launch party, Busch stressed "repeatedly" that Kräftig and the William K. Busch Brewing Co. (WKBBC) are "in no way linked to Anheuser-Busch InBev" and that the new beers are not microbrews; "they are meant to compete with the big boys," the journal article said.

James Hoffmeister, WKBBC's CEO, spent nearly 40 years at Anheuser-Busch. Chief operating officer Gary Prindiville Jr. is a 25-year Anheuser-Busch veteran. Executive board member Michael Brooks, now CEO and chairman of fishing reel manufacturer Ardent, worked at Anheuser-Busch for 19 years.

Billy Busch founded an independent beer wholesaler, Silver Eagle Distribution Co., in 1984, the article said. (Source: St. Louis Business Journal, Nov. 4, 2011.)

Kirin buys remaining stake in Schincariol

Japanese brewer Kirin Holdings has agreed to pay $1.35 billion for the 48.54% of Brazilian beer maker Schincariol that it doesn't already own, the New York Times' "DealBook" blog reported. Schincariol will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Kirin.

In August, Kirin acquired a 50.45% stake in the company, triggering a three-month-long dispute among Schincariol's family owners. (Source: "DealBook," New York Times, Nov. 4, 2011.)

Columbia Sportswear launches new ad campaign

Columbia Sportswear has launched an ad campaign featuring Wim Hof, a Dutchman who runs in freezing temperatures and sits on a block of ice wearing only a pair of shorts, the New York Times reported.

Columbia calls Hof an "antispokesman" for its new line of electrically heated jackets and gloves, the article said. An online commercial's narrator says, "Are you Wim Hof? No, no, you are not Wim Hof. That's why we created Omni-Heat Electric...."

The company is known for a 24-year-long series of humorous ads that featured chairwoman Gert Boyle and her son, CEO Tim Boyle. David Vinjamuri, whose book Accidental Branding includes a chapter about Columbia, told the Times the new campaign has "the tonality, humor and irony that people will recognize from the brand." (Source: New York Times, Nov. 3, 2011.)

McGraw-Hill and CME Group will form joint index venture

McGraw-Hill and Chicago-based CME Group will form a joint venture that combine the Dow Jones industrial average, the S&P 500 and other Wall Street indicators, Reuters reported.

McGraw-Hill, which owns the S&P indices, will hold a 73% stake in the new venture. CME Group will control 24.4%; News Corp., owner of the Dow Jones name, will hold the remaining 2.6% stake, the Reuters article said.

In September, McGraw-Hill said it planned to split its education business and its financial and markets business into two separate publicly traded companies.

The deal with CME changes the relationship between the two companies. McGraw-Hill will now take a share of profits from all of CME's stock-related products instead of collecting licensing fees, the Reuters report said. (Source: Reuters, Nov. 4, 2011.)

Frank McCourt agrees to sell Dodgers

Frank McCourt has agreed to sell the Los Angeles Dodgers in a process that will be overseen by a federal bankruptcy court judge, the New York Times reported. He might continue ownership of the Dodger Stadium parking lot, the report noted.

McCourt, whose grandfather had owned a share in the Boston Braves, bought the team from Rupert Murdoch's Fox Entertainment Group. Fox had acquired the Dodgers from the O'Malley family who had owned it for 47 years. McCourt "bought the team entirely with debt, some of it financed by Fox [and] added still more debt as the years passed," the Times article said.

McCourt fired his wife, Jamie, as the team's co-CEO after she filed for divorce.

"[Major League] Baseball asserts that McCourt siphoned $189 million from the team over seven years," the Times article said.

The report noted that federal investigators have been looking into McCourt's financial affairs. "[D]uring the McCourts' divorce case it emerged that the couple had not paid taxes for a number of years," the article said. (Source: New York Times, Nov. 2, 2011.)

Bakrie family will sell half their Bumi stake

Indonesia's Bakrie family has agreed to sell half their stake (about 23%) in Bumi to Indonesian investor Samin Tan for $1 billion, the Financial Times reported. Tan "tried unsuccessfully to buy Bakrie assets in 2006," the article said.

The Bakries created Bumi in November 2010 as a joint venture with Nat Rothschild.

The family had to sell their shares in Bumi to cover a $1.34 billion loan that was called in by Credit Suisse. Two Bakrie companies will still owe Credit Suisse and several hedge funds between $350 million and $400 million, according to the FT report. (Source: Financial Times, Nov. 4, 2011.)

Oppenheimer family sells its stake in De Beers

Anglo American Plc has agreed to buy the Oppenheimer family's 40% stake in De Beers, the world's largest diamond miner, according to news reports. A Bloomberg article noted that the $5.1 billion cash transaction will end the family's 80-year ownership of De Beers.

An analyst told Bloomberg that the price is on the low side, "but for the Oppenheimers there was only one buyer." Anglo currently owns 45% of De Beers; the other 15% is owned by the Botswana government, according to the report.

Ernest Oppenheimer founded Anglo in 1917 and took control of De Beers in the 1920s. Anglo has been a leading investor in De Beers since 1926, according to the Financial Times. Last December, the Oppenheimers sold about $102 million of Anglo shares, reducing their stake in the company to 1.9% from 8% in 2000.

De Beers chairman Nicky Oppenheimer, grandson of the founder, told Bloomberg the family's decision was unanimous. E. Oppenheimer & Son Group managing director James Teeger said the family has "no intention at this stage" of further reducing its holding, the Bloomberg article said.

Anglo said in February that Nicky Oppenheimer would leave the company, marking the first time a member of the family hasn't sat on the board since the company was founded.

The Financial Times cited analysts who commented that the Oppenheimers' decision to sell was likely linked to succession questions. Nicky Oppenheimer, 66, stepped down form the Anglo board earlier this year; his son Jonathan "was blocked from taking his place for corporate governance reasons," according to the FT report.

The FT noted that the Oppenheimers have other business interests. In August, E. Oppenheimer & Son formed a joint venture with Sennett Investments, a unit of Singapore's Temasek, which will be involved in the consumer and agriculture sectors in Africa. Jonathan Oppenheimer is expected to play a leading role in the family's future business activities, the article said. (Source: Bloomberg, Nov. 4, 2011; Financial Times, Nov. 4, 2011.)

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