Heiresses-in-training for father’s exit from Agrosuper: – Sooner or later, they must take the helm

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Agrosuper founder Gonzalo Vial Vial looks to his three daughters, not his son, when mapping the future for the food conglomerate he created.

It took Gonzalo Vial Vial more than 60 years to build up Agrosuper, and which culminated with the acquisition of Chile’s largest marine farming company, AquaChile. But now Vial Vial has begun preparing for his departure by including his children in the process, according to the Chilean newspaper La Tercera.

Vial Vial has three daughters and a son: Maria Cristina Vial Concha, María del Pilar Vial Concha, María José Vial Concha and Gonzalo Vial Concha. Each of the children own around 24 percent of the shares in the company, while the father owns the rest.

The big question, according to the newspaper, is how and to what extent his offspring will be involved in the daily running of the company in the future.

“Little by little, the daughters have become involved. Sooner or later they must take over responsibility (of the company),” the newspaper wrote.

Strained relationship
According to the newspaper, Gonzalo Vial Vial started preparations for his exit already in 2011. Last year the daughters travelled to the southern reaches of the country to learn more about salmon production. In the space of three days they gained an intensive insight as to how the aquaculture industry works. Since then they have also participated in monthly meetings concerning the company’s operation.

Noticeably, Vial Vials only son, Gonzalo Vial Concha, is not involved. Local media report that he is “well away from the process”.

Why hasn’t the son been assigned a role in the running of Agrosuper?

The same media have implied that the relationship between father and son is “strained”. While father and daughters have lived a seemingly trouble-free existence, Gonzalo Jr. has been involved in several negative episodes.

One of the biggest scandals is the role he had in the so-called “Caval Affair”, a corruption scandal that shook Chile in 2016. The daughter-in-law of former President Michelle Bachelet, Natalia Compagnon and 12 others were charged for corruption. Among these, Vial Vial’s son. Gonzalo Jr. was the company Caval’s first and biggest customer, the newspaper Que Pasa had reported. It was alleged he had paid (the equivalent of) over 14 million kroner in the course of one year for diverse consultancy services. According to Gonzalo Jr., he was tricked by Compagnon to believe that a major swindle was taking place inside Agrosuper, and that he had then given her and Caval the green light to find those responsible.

This event happened a few years after Gonzalo Jr. shall allegedly been duped by his own security advisor, who claimed that employees in Agrosuper were planning to kidnap his children. The outcome was such that Gonzalo Jr. – out of fright – moved his family from his hometown of Rancagua to Santiago, reported Ciper.

Quit Agrosuper
These episodes shall have created a division in the relationship between father and son, but Gonzalo Jr. had broken out with his father on the business side long before this. The urge for independence has long been a motivating force for the son.

After having worked at Agrosuper for about two years, he left the company to start up for himself. The first attempt to succeed as a broker didn’t go very well. At the end of the eighties he started Graneles de Chile, which, among other products, supplies grain to various companies. Even though this company also struggled somewhat in the beginning, it has been said that it was thanks to a contract from the father’s company, Agrosuper, which caused earnings to suddenly improve significantly. Now, despite a slower pace the last decade with increasing debt, the company is still the biggest importer and distributor of grain to industries such as salmon, pork and poultry.

“I observed which logistical problems Father had in Agrosuper, and it occurred to me that need could be met,” remarked Gonzalo Jr. on the background for establishing his company.

But it isn’t just for business reasons that father and son have parted company. They have also gone in separate directions where their shared passion, horses, is concerned. The father is considered one of the most important horse breeders in Chile, yet nonetheless Gonzalo Jr. started his own ranch – Las Callanes.

“The independence that Gonzalo Jr. sought through engaging in horse breeding has also carried through to business activities,” a source with connections to the family told La Tercera.