Margarita Louis-Dreyfus paid $825m to buy a 16.6 per cent stake in the agricultural trading house that bears her name from family members.
A company filing also shows the Russian-born heiress borrowed $1bn from Credit Suisse to finance the buyout and used her controlling stake in the company as collateral for the loan.
Louis Dreyfus Holding BV (LDHBV) is the parent company of Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC), one of the world’s biggest traders of crops and foodstuffs.
The share pledge, which was disclosed in the annual accounts of Akira — the Dutch-registered family trust of Ms Louis-Dreyfus — means Credit Suisse could in theory take control of LDC if she can’t repay or refinance the loan.
“On or about January 25 2019, the company borrowed $1.03bn from Credit Suisse (Switzerland),” Akira said in the filing. “In anticipation of the borrowing of the foregoing funds, the Company pledged all of its shares in LDHBV to Credit Suisse (Switzerland).”
Ms Louis-Dreyfus took control of LDC in 2009 following the death of her husband Robert-Louis Dreyfus and has steadily strengthened her grip over the company.
After several years of bitter legal wrangling, she finally agreed a deal to buy out the remaining family members in December 2018, acquiring the 16.6 per cent stake for $825m.
Ms Louis-Dreyfus has never revealed the buyout was financed but has hit back at suggestions that she has been squeezing the commodity trader for cash to service loans. Her holding in LDHBV now stands at around 96 per cent.
“We’ve got a very solid repayment plan that in no way damages the business,” she told the Financial Times in a rare interview in 2018.
In the annual filing, Akira said it has received a $241.3m dividend from LDHBV in March 2019. It also showed a $440m loan — also from Credit Suisse — matured in November in 2019 but did not say if it had been repaid or refinanced.
News of the share pledge, and dividend follows a tough year for LDC, which recently launched a cost cutting programme in response to difficult market conditions.
Uncertainty created by the US-China trade war, the spread of deadly pig flu in China and increasingly erratic weather has made life very difficult for LDC and its peers, a group that includes Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Cargill.
In the six months to June, LDC reported net income from continuing operations of $73m, down from $91m in the same period in 2018, and its chief executive Ian MacIntosh has said things won’t improve until later this year.
Last month, the company announced further changes in senior management team with Patrick Treuer, a close confidant of Ms Louis-Dreyfus, appointed chief financial officer.
Details of the family buyout were first reported by Bloomberg.