Italian chocolate tycoon Pietro Ferrero, joint chief executive of the Ferrero group which owns Nutella and Kinder, has died while cycling in South Africa, a spokesperson for the group said on Monday.
EWN later reported that police in Cape Town said Ferrero died of a suspected heart attack while cycling in Camps Bay on Monday afternoon.
Ferrero, who was 47, was in South Africa “on a business trip”, the spokesperson said, without giving any further details about the type of accident.
Ferrero ran the secretive sweets group along with his brother, Giovanni.
Their 85-year-old father Michele, Italy’s richest man, turned the company into a global leader of the confectionery industry.
Michele Ferrero is Italy’s richest man according to the latest ranking by Forbes magazine, ahead of eyewear tycoon Leonardo Del Vecchio and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a billionaire tv mogul turned politician.
“Italy has lost a businessman who represented the best qualities of our economic history,” Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said in a statement.
Frattini said Ferrero had “brought an exceptionally important contribution to the Made in Italy brand around the world”.
The Ferrero story
The Ferrero story began in the 1940s in Italy’s northern Piedmont region.
A local pastry chef also called Pietro Ferrero began the business with a secret recipe that used nuts to cut down on the more expensive cocoa in a spread that was to be called Nutella and quickly became wildly popular.
The company also owns the Ferrero Rocher, Kinder and Tic-Tac brands.
It had an annual turnover of €6,6-billion in its 2009/10 financial year — 4,3% higher than the previous year.
It has 18 plants around the world and employs more than 21 000 people.
The firm is entirely family-owned and has stayed away from big corporate takeovers or public listings. Last year, it did however signal interest in bidding for Britain’s Cadbury which was eventually taken over by Kraft Foods.– AFP