Every few decades the question again returns: Will Campbell Soup's major shareholders, descendants of John T. Dorrance, relinquish their hold on the soup empire and sell it.
That question has once again come up in the wake of the departure of Campbell CEO Denise Morrison and the soup company's announcement it is doing a review of its portfolio that keeps "everything" on the table." That speculation has been fanned by the stake that activist shareholder Third Point has taken in the company. Third Point has declined to comment to CNBC.
Campbell has declined to comment on this speculation. It plans to announce the results of its review at the end of August.
But any potential buyers or activists who want to agitate for a sale face a long road ahead. The Dorrance family is not a unified voting block. It is a number of different subsets, which have not always been aligned on whether the best option for the soup company is to sell or stay independent. Today, there remains disagreement, CNBC has reported.
Here, CNBC breaks down the lineage behind the Campbell Soup empire and whom an activist investor or potential buyer would need to persuade to make a deal or any other significant strategic change.
All roads start with John T. Dorrance, inventor of the condensed soup formula that served as the basis for the Campbell empire. Dorrance had been sole owner of Campbell when he passed in 1930. In a move that had longstanding impact, be bequeathed to his son Jack double the stake in the soup giant he left his daughters, according to Daniel Sidorick, author of Condensed Capitalism: Campbell Soup and the Pursuit of Cheap Production in the Twentieth Century.