BERLIN — A yearlong family feud at the coffee and retail concern Tchibo has ended, clearing one major obstacle to Tchibo Holding AG evolving from a minority to a majority shareholder in Beiersdorf.

According to press reports Tuesday, former Tchibo chief Günter Herz and his sister Daniela agreed to sell their 39 percent stake in the Hamburg-based coffee company to their brother Michael and other allied family members who hold 51 percent. Their mother Ingeborg holds the remaining 10 percent.

In an official release Tuesday, Tchibo Holding confirmed that Günter and Daniela Herz were parting ways with the company, but offered no further details.

Disagreements over company strategy between Günter and Michael (and their supporters) had blocked Tchibo Holding from adding Allianz’s 43.6 percent stake in Beiersdorf to Tchibo’s 30 percent. While the board of Tchibo Holding has long signaled its interest in doing so, not all family members supported the move.

With the naysayers now out of the picture, Tchibo Holding chairman of the board Dieter Ammer may be able to put the company’s war chest to use.

This includes more than $5 billion from Tchibo’s sale of the cigarette company Reemtsma. Indeed, in its official statementthe company said “in the case that the Tchibo Holding AG has the opportunity to significantly increase its holding in Beiersdorf AG, the family members have agreed to again combine their sources.”

There is one catch however. It is not exactly clear how Günter and Daniela Herz are to be bought out, with some sources suggesting the Holding will buy their share. A decision is expected by the end of August, sources also noting that sufficient funds for Allianz’s Beiersdorf stake will still be available should the Holding also pick up the Herz tab.

— Melissa Drier

RITE AID’S LOSS: The number-three pharmaceutical chain on Tuesday posted a first-quarter loss of $38.8 million, or 8 cents a share, versus a loss of $4.7 million, or 1 cent, in the year-ago period. The chain said the loss included a $33.4 million charge from the early retirement of debt and a $6 million charge representing costs incurred to defend prior management. Last year’s quarterly results included an income tax benefit of $44 million, which impacted income favorably by 7 cents a share. Excluding special charges in the current quarter, Rite Aid Corp. had $600,000 in income, with earnings per share at zero.Sales for the 13 weeks ended May 31 rose 3.1 percent to $4 billion versus $3.9 billion a year ago. Same-store sales increased 4.3 percent, which included a 5.7 percent jump in comparable pharmacy store sales and a 1.8 percent gain in front-end comps. Prescription sales represented 64.5 percent of total sales.

The chain said it expects sales of between $16.5 billion and $16.7 billion for the current fiscal year, which ends on Feb. 28, 2004. Comps are projected at 6.5 percent, with the loss for the fiscal year between zero and $63 million.

Rite Aid said it was resuming a new store development program, with the goal of opening 75 stores by the end of fiscal 2005, and an additional 100 stores during fiscal 2006.

The decision to resume the program comes at a time when Rite Aid is gearing up to close one chapter of its corporate history. This month, former chief executive officer Martin Grass pled guilty to conspiring to defraud the company. Former chief financial officer Frank Bergonzi also pled guilty. Those two moves have left former Rite Aid vice chairman Franklin Brown, 75, to face a federal criminal trial on June 30 by himself. He faces multiple felony counts stemming from one of the largest corporate fraud cases in U.S. history.

— Vicki M. Young

BREAKFAST WITH AGON: Jean-Paul Agon, president and chief executive officer of L’Oréal USA, a $3.5 billion business — admits to being a bit of a wallflower — “I usually do my best to avoid this kind of situation,” he told a sold-out Cosmetics Executive Women breakfast — but then went on to reveal a new persona: standup comedian.

He not only held the interest of 600 listeners — a CEW attendance record — but drew sustained applause at the end, after answering several questions. Agon noted that he turned down four offers from CEW to speak at its Newsmaker Forum and finally relented on the fifth request because he “couldn’t decline anymore.”

Agon realized, when trying to decide what to talk about, that he didn’t have a “scoop to reveal,” because he’s happy with the company’s strategy and instead, outlined his 25-year-career at L’Oréal. The chapter that clearly left the most indelible impression on him came near the beginning, when at age 24, Agon was handed what he later discovered was a dubious honor of becoming general manager in Greece of “a tiny business in trouble.” There, he became accustomed to doing everything from “top strategic thinking to stacking cartons to delivering products from the trunk of the car.” As a result, he now has what his staff in New York considers a “bad tendency to be too involved in everything.” Agon admits that his team would be grateful if he eased up and gave them a break from time to time.As 2003 marks the 50th Anniversary of L’Oréal’s presence in the U.S., Agon noted this achievement can be attributed to the team it had in the beginning.

Agon also addressed the company’s reputation as the “old boys club,” which he claimed he was unaware of until Carlotta Jacobson, president of CEW, brought it to his attention. “I was very surprised, because 10 out of 15 divisions are run by women executives,” said Agon and added that such divisions represent more than 80 percent of the business. He said the company’s women executives have clearly taken power and are doing extremely well. “The only old boys remaining in this company are those here with me,” noted Agon, and added that “they are all together because they are trying to defend themselves.”

— Kristin Finn

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