Italy's richest man, Nutella billionaire Ferrero dies

  • Published
Media caption,
Caroline Hawley reports: ''Famously publicity shy, Michele Ferrero headed a family chocolate empire with a fairytale story''

Billionaire Michele Ferrero, whose global chocolate empire made him Italy's richest man, has died aged 89.

His privately-owned firm is famous for its chocolate-hazelnut Nutella spread, Ferrero Rocher chocolates, Kinder eggs and Tic Tac sweets.

Mr Ferrero died on Saturday at his Monaco home after months of illness, according to his company.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella called him a "born entrepreneur".

Mr Ferrero's father, a pastry maker named Pietro, developed the forerunner to Nutella in 1946, called Giandujot, combining a small amount of cocoa and lots of hazelnuts to make an affordable luxury at a time chocolate was expensive.

'Richest candyman'

Image source, Poste Italiane
Image caption,
The Italian post office marked the anniversary with a stamp

Michele Ferrero's son, Giovanni, told the BBC last year: "My grandfather lived to find this formula. He was completely obsessed by it... he woke up my grandmother at midnight - she was sleeping - and he made her taste it with spoons, asking, 'How was it?' and 'What do you think?'"

Michele Ferrero turned the paste into the Nutella now known the world over, produced in 11 factories and sold in 160 countries. The first pot was made in 1964.

Giovanni Ferrero became chief executive of the firm after his older brother Pietro died of a suspected heart attack while cycling in South Africa in 2011.

The Ferrero group employs more than 22,000 workers and has sales per year of more than €8bn (£5.9bn).

Forbes magazine described Mr Ferrero as "the richest candyman on the planet", putting him and his family in 30th place on their list of the world's wealthiest people, with wealth of $23.4bn (£14.9bn).