What is Margarita Louis-Dreyfus’ net worth?
Margarita Louis-Dreyfus is a Russian-born businesswoman who has a net worth of $4 billion. Margarita Louis-Dreyfus inherited her fortune thanks to her marriage to the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus. Margarita and Robert met in 1988 on a plane. They married in 1992 and were together until his death from leukemia in 2009. Robert Louis-Dreyfus was the chairman and CEO of Adidas from 1994 to 2004 and then took the reigns at his family business, the Louis Dreyfus Group. Upon his death, Margarita not only inherited a majority stake in the Louis Dreyfus commodities giant, she also became the company’s chairwoman and has largely run the business in the last decade+.
Unfortunately, the Louis Dreyfus Group has suffered somewhat in the years since Robert’s passing. At the time of his death, the stake Margarita inherited was worth $10 billion.
Connection to Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Margarita and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are second cousins, once removed, by marriage.
Margarita’s late husband Robert Louis-Dreyfus had a cousin named Gerard Louis-Dreyfus. Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus is Gerard’s daughter. Gerard and Julia’s mother divorced when she was a baby. When Gerard died in 2016 his net worth was $4 billion.
Margarita Olegovna Bogdanova was born in Leningrad, Russia in 1962. Her parents died when she was 11, so she was raised by her grandfather. She studied law and economics in Moscow and Leningrad.
In 1988, while flying from Zurich to London, Margarita met businessman Robert Louis-Dreyfus. At the time she was selling electronic components in Russia. That flight changed the course of her life. Margarita and Robert married in 1992.
The couple had three sons – Eric in 1992 and twins Maurice and Kyril in 1997.
The Louis Dreyfus Group
Robert died in 2009 after his battle with leukemia and Margarita took over as chairman of the venerable Louis Dreyfus Group. Louis Dreyfus is a global merchant with interests in agriculture, food processing, shipping, and finance. It owns and manages hedge funds, ocean vessels, telecommunications infrastructures, and real estate development.
Over the course of the next decade, Margarita ran the business herself and, for a time, did quite well. She bought out family members’ stake in the business to increase her holdings from 50% to 96%. She also spent some years locked in battles with her late husband’s family over the business. Those legal battles came at a cost and in late 2020 she sold 45% of the business to a sovereign wealth fund in Abu Dhabi.
When Margarita inherited her late husband’s stake in Louis Dreyfus, the company was making hundreds of millions annually in its agriculture, forestry, real estate, and U.S. energy trading. After Robert died, she started setting the strategy of the business which caused friction with the executive Robert had left in charge, Jacques Veyrat. Veyrat wanted to merge the agricultural business with an up and coming company called Olam International. Olam wasn’t as large as Louis Dreyfus but it was listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange, which would have given the Louis-Dreyfus family an easy and expedient way to sell their stakes after a merger. However, Margarita killed the deal and Veyrat quit. Margarita claimed that it was about protecting Robert’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Almost as soon as the deal was killed, the rest of the family put some of their stakes up for sale. Due to a deal Robert put in place years earlier, Margarita was forced to buy the shares at a price determined by the company’s value and profitability. This was all during the boom years for not just the company, but the whole industry. Margarita paid top dollar for the shares. She needed cash to buy the family shares quickly so she started selling assets. As the profits for the agricultural business started to fall, her in-laws sold more and more shares. Margarita and Louis Dreyfus had to take on debt to buy the shares. She borrowed more than $1 billion from Credit Suisse and pledged some of her shares against the debt.
Margarita also went to court when family members sued her over how much she should pay for the stakes she was obligated to by. Months of legal battles ended up in a settlement, or, more accurately, settlements, since each member sued her separately. While all this was happening Louis Dreyfus’ core business of trading cotton, sugar, and rice was struggling. Annual net income fell from more than $1 billion in 2010 to less than $500 million due to the oversupply of the crops for these products.
In 2019 and early 2020, Credit Suisse started looking for private equity companies, sovereign wealth funds, and other trading houses about a deal. No one was interested in a minority stake in Louis Dreyfus. And then the coronavirus hit and governments across the globe wanted to secure long-term food supplies for their citizens. That helped to raise profits for crop traders like Louis Dreyfus and the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund came calling.
After a decade of family battles, Margarita Louis-Dreyfus will end up with a 55% stake in Louis Dreyfus, the same amount she had in 2009 when her husband died. There is one big difference though – the commodity trading business is the only asset left, she sold most of the other profitable business units of Louis Dreyfus over the last decade.
Olympique de Marseille
In addition to a majority of the Louis Dreyfus Group, Margarita also inherited the French Ligue 1 soccer team, Olympique de Marseille. Robert bought the team in 1997. In 2016 Margarita sold 95% of the team to American businessman, and former LA Dodgers owner, Frank McCourt.