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Antoine Riboud, 83; Founded Firm Making Dannon, Evian Products

Obituaries | Passings

May 06, 2002|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Antoine Riboud, 83, the founder of Groupe Danone SA who transformed a small glassworks operation into the world's biggest maker of dairy products and bottled water, died Sunday in Paris of unstated causes.

Born in Lyons, France, Riboud began his career in 1942 with a maker of glass bottles and jars, Verreries Souchon-Neuvesel, which owned 25% of the Evian mineral-water company. In 1966, he merged Verreries and Boussois, a maker of window glass, but he failed two years later in France's first hostile takeover bid for another competitor, Cie Saint-Gobain SA.

Focusing on content rather than containers, Riboud in 1970 acquired two breweries and gained control of Evian and its baby-food subsidiaries. In 1973, he merged with Gervais Danone, France's largest food company specializing in cream cheese, yogurt and desserts. He went on to add Dannon United States in 1981, Europe's Generale Biscuit in 1986 and the European units of Nabisco in 1989.

The company changed its name to Danone in 1994, and Riboud resigned as chairman in 1996, turning over control to his son, Franck Riboud. Last year, the company boasted some 100,000 employees in more than 120 countries and sales of $13.3 billion.

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