Candy Family Fight: Go to Mars or Stay at Home?
SNEEK, Netherlands (AP) _ Most members of a premier candy family favor a flight to Mars, one refuses in the belief aliens are evil and some people say the fuss is a lot of salami.
At stake is the future of the Tonnema company, whose peppermints and roll candies have put smiles on the faces of sticky-handed Dutch children since 1903.
The question is whether one of this northern town’s prized industries will be sold to Mars, Inc. and become part of the $12 billion U.S. business empire in Holland, the largest investment of any foreign country.
″All these Americans are trying to buy is the brand name,″ lawyer Hugo Smit said. His client, Leo Lampe, is the sole holdout.
Lampe holds has 1.5 percent of the company stock and, his lawyer said, wants to buy out his cousins to keep Tonnema in Dutch hands.
Smit said the Lampes and De Vrieses were on the outs long before a dispute arose over whether to sell the company, which was founded by Nicolaas de Vries and is run by his grandson, Fons.
It makes King mints and Rang roll candies, the most popular products of their kind in the Nethrlands.
Last year, the McLean, Va., company offered 27 million guilders ($14.1 million) for the company, which has annual sales of about 25 million guilders ($13 million).
Mars has withdrawn its offer until the end of the legal battle with Lampe, 39, a great-grandson of founder Nicolaas de Vries.
″I think the Sneek plant would be closed within no time at all″ if Mars got control, Smit said, and accused supporters of the takeover of ″salami tactics″ to win over other members of the family.
″Salami tactics″ is a Dutch term for the gradual slicing away of opposition in a business deal.
Peter Wakkie, lawyer for the pro-sale group, said: ″That’s nonsense. All the shareholders want to sell except Mr. Lampe.″
Although Tonnema’s 120 employees represent only a fraction of the town’s 10,000 workers, the company ″is very deeply anchored in Sneek society″ and closing it ″would be an enormous emotional loss,″ said city government spokesman Henk van der Winden said.
Last week, Lampe lost a court bid to regain the veto power he lost in a recent change of the company by-laws. Smit said he would appeal.
The Lampes are descended from textile barons who considered the de Vrieses ″nouveau riche,″ with the result that the de Vrieses ″have been yelling at the top of their voices, ‘Never sell to a Lampe’,″ the lawyer said.
As for Mars, spokesman Tom Langeler of the Dutch subsidiary said: ″We’ll just sit tight and wait.″