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Sat, Sep 04, 2010 - Page 10 News List

Mom seizes control of firm with board meeting in car

THE GUARDIAN, LONDON

It was a strange way to wrest back control of the 100-year-old family company but, after her sons locked her out, Maria Teresa Rodriguez — the matriarch of Spanish biscuit manufacturer Galletas Gullon — decided to call a board meeting in a car.

The meeting in the company car park, attended by her daughter Lourdes and a major shareholder as photographers surrounded the Mercedes, saw her appointed sole administrator of the company.

The 68-year-old thereby took control of Spain’s third-biggest biscuit manufacturer from her three sons and two brothers.

The 35-minute meeting, also attended by a notary who sat in the passenger seat, was duly advertised with two posters stuck to the front windscreen.

A family feud pits the Gullon men against its women. Sons and brothers had tried to block Rodriguez’s takeover by declaring the board meeting irregular and locking her out of the company headquarters.

A security guard turned mother and daughter away from the front door of Spain’s biggest biscuit factory, in the western town of Aguilar de Campoo, but as those in the Mercedes controlled 80 percent of the company, their takeover was a shoo-in.

The man in the driver’s seat was Juan Martinez, the former chief executive fired by Rodriguez’s sons last year. He held 16 percent of the stock. Rodriguez had appointed him after her husband, Jose Manuel Gullon, died in a car accident in 1983.

Rodriguez was executive president until she, too, was eased out by her children. The rebellion sparked a feud over the firm, which has 400 employees, an annual turnover of 162 million euros (US$208 million) and exports to 80 countries. It also saw Martinez win 8.2 million euros for wrongful dismissal.

“The company will go to my children, but only when I decide,” Rodriguez said in a recent interview.

The sons yesterday claimed the meeting was not properly convened and said their mother was illegally using voting shares left to them by their father.

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