GERMANY, Rheda-Wiedenbrück. The managing partner of the Tönnies meat group, Clemens Tönnies, insists on the family's claim to leadership in the face of reports of a possible sale.
The Tönnies Group is growing, investing and "moving into the next generation," according to a letter from Tönnies and his son Maximilian to the workforce obtained by news agency Reuters on Friday. "The success of the past decades does not let us tire of continuing and starting into the next generation," Clemens and Maximilian Tönnies stressed in the memo, "With Maximilian, the next generation is actively involved in management, and our international expansion course is moving forward step by step." They are "ready for the future in the company."
Tönnies was responding to a report by news agency Bloomberg that Tönnies' owners were looking into selling their slaughtering empire. The group could be valued at around € 4 bn. in the process. Talks with possible bidders could begin in the next few weeks. Among others, competitors Tyson Foods, JBS SA and the Chinese WH Group are considered interested parties.
Tönnies said "interested groups" were spreading sale rumors. However, Tönnies does not comment on market rumors. Rather, he said, it is the Group that is actively shaping its markets, is currently investing heavily in Germany and internationally, and is pushing for expansion: "We want to continue this course together with you."
Tönnies, by far Germany's largest slaughterhouse, had a turnover of € 7.3 bn. in 2019 with more than 16,000 employees, according to its own figures. It is celebrating its 50th anniversary these days. In its core business, the company, which was founded in 1971 and has also grown internationally through numerous acquisitions, deals with the slaughtering, cutting and processing of pigs and cattle. Tönnies is also active in China, among other places.
The group, headquartered in Rheda-Wiedenbrück in North Rhine-Westphalia, hit the headlines last year after a corona outbreak at its main plant. More than 1,500 employees were infected with the virus and the plant was temporarily closed. Politicians had repeatedly criticized working conditions at Tönnies.
Clemens Tönnies, managing partner of the group, had subsequently resigned from his post as chairman of the supervisory board of Bundesliga soccer club Schalke 04 at the end of June 2020. "My main task at the moment is to concentrate fully on my company, to lead it successfully through the most serious crisis in its history," Tönnies said in a letter to the club at the time, explaining the move.
There had been repeated disputes between major shareholder Robert Tönnies and his uncle Clemens Tönnies in the past. Among other things, a Group spokesman appealed to Robert to "dedicate himself to the company's cause in the tradition of the Tönnies family." Clemens Tönnies, who turns 65 in May, controls about 45% of the shares, with Robert Tönnies holding about 50%. Also working in the Group is Maximilian Tönnies, son of Clemens Tönnies, who is also a shareholder and controls around five percent of the shares. Among other things, he was entrusted with the company's expansion in the vegetarian food market. Tönnies is represented there by the "Vevia" and "Gutfried veggie" brands, among others.