Cadbury heiress Felicity Loudon seeks sweet revenge on Kraft
Descendant of founder of British chocolate maker is to launch her own company to rival US giant
Tuesday 08 May 2012
When Kraft announced it wanted to buy Cadbury, the great-granddaughter of the confectioner's founder said the idea of selling off one of Britain's oldest and most cherished companies to an "American plastic-cheese company" was a "horror story".
Felicity Loudon wasn't able to stop the sale going through; three months after her outburst, the firm's shareholders caved in to Kraft's hostile takeover and accepted a bid of £11.5bn in January 2010. But now she has had enough – and has sold her £30m Cotswolds mansion to launch her own rival chocolate company.
"I never realised that foreign predators could come and take our British companies, and I feel this is so wrong," she said. "I would love it to be a success, love it to be seen not as a replacement for Cadbury but, in a way, as a memorial to my grandfather."
Mrs Loudon gave up her family's Cadbury surname in 1996 when she married her aristocratic Dutch husband, John. But looking at what she has had to give up to fund her new venture, Mrs Loudon's nostalgia for her family's heritage is evidently as strong as ever.
With 16 bedrooms, six reception rooms, a billiards hall, a gym, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a tennis court, a polo ground and stables – as well as a number of cottages scattered around the 650-acre grounds – the Grade II-listed Pusey House is quite a sacrifice, even for patriotism and family pride. Indeed, she admits she does "cry about leaving".
It has taken almost two years to find a buyer for the mansion, but now that Mrs Loudon has the money in her bank account, she is determined to make a success of her new company.
"I want it to be affordable. I want it to be quirky. I want a child to want to buy it. I want it to bring out the child in you. I want to get away from additives. Everything about it, apart from the cocoa bean, has to be British, and that caused huge problems," she told Birmingham's Sunday Mercury.
Kraft's purchase was hugely controversial when it was first touted in 2009. Things did not improve once the sale went through, with Kraft reneging on a promise to keep Cadbury's Somerdale factory near Bristol open – at a cost of 400 jobs. Last year, Kraft announced that another 200 jobs were being cut through voluntary redundancies and redeployment, though it has also announced a £50m investment in the business.
Mrs Loudon led the fight to keep the Cadbury name, and the fate of the company's employees, in British hands when the prospect of the deal was first announced.
"My great-grandfather would be turning in his grave," she said at the time. "He not only created a brand that continues to give everyone a buzz and lift when the day gets tough or sad, but also the Bournville model village."
There is little chance of Mrs Loudon's small start-up taking much of a chunk out of Cadbury's huge, market-leading sales. Despite her family history, her experience revolves around interior design rather than chocolate making.
And she admits that when every interviewer asked in 2009 whether she was about to go into the trade herself, her answer was always: "No, I don't think so." But with chocolate running through her veins, it appears you can't keep a Cadbury, even a lapsed one, away from the sweet stuff.
Kraft declined to comment, saying it does not "speculate on potential actions of competitors".
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