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Sugar baron dethrones AB InBev director as richest Belgian

Credit: Belga

Eric Wittouck, who made his fortune with Tirlemont sugar, has dethroned Alexandre Van Damme as the richest Belgian, according to the new edition of the book “De 200 Rijkste Belgen” (The 200 Richest Belgians) by journalist Ludwig Verduyn.

Van Damme, the largest individual shareholder and director of multinational brewing company AB InBev, was the highest ranked since 2007. He lost his place due to the fall of the AB InBev share, in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

The share of the brewing giant is currently trading below €60, whereas it was double at its peak.

Van Damme’s assets are nevertheless estimated at €10.5 billion, just below the €10.8 billion now attributed to Eric Wittouck.

Wittouck led the sale of Raffinerie Tirlemontoise to the German Südzucker in 1989. The income generated was reinvested in the Luxembourg holding company Artal, with which he notably got his hands on the American Weight Watchers.

One of Artal’s most important holdings was Blue Buffalo Pet Company, an organic feed producer, which was sold in 2017 with a capital gain of €1.8 billion.

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“The arrival of a new number one brings with it a more fundamental underlying message: the coronavirus has deeply damaged the heritage of Belgium’s richest people,” said Verduyn.

“Alexandre Van Damme is the most affected for two reasons: he is mainly active in a sector that has been very heavily affected and the value of his assets is determined by the stock market,” he continued.

In addition to Eric Wittouck and Alexandre Van Damme, the top 5 richest Belgians include the family of the late Albert Frère (estimated at more than €6.9 billion), the Werner de Spoelberch family, also a shareholder of AB InBev (more than €6.8 billion) and the de Mévius family (AB InBev, Verlinvest; more than €3.4 billion).

The Brussels Times