Peter W. Blommer's grandfather, the founder of Blommer Chocolate Co., had just died when the family received a phone call.
"We got a call from the chairman of another company saying they owned 50 percent of our shares," said Blommer, 50, now president and chief operating officer of the nation's largest cocoa-bean processing company.
"It kind of upped the emotional ante," he said.
Blommer Chocolate is headquartered in Chicago, but has one of its largest processing factories in East Greenville, Montgomery County, where Peter W. Blommer is based.
Bad family dynamics between Blommer's father and uncle on one side and their cousins on the other caused the cousins to sell their half of the company to an outside firm that planned a takeover.
Question: And then?
Answer: We had to figure out whether to sell our shares or fight for those shares to buy them back. We were able to prevail and regain 100 percent control of the business.
Q: How did you do it?
A: It was another family business. We prevailed on the family owners of that business. We said, 'You may not know that this is happening, but your family business is involved in a takeover of our family business, and we don't want to sell.' When they realized what was going on, they sold it back to us.
Q: Didn't they know?
A: No. It was being professionally run. The other family wasn't involved in the day-to-day.
Q: You regained the business in 1994. Now your family business is 75 years old and in its third generation - fourth if you count your great-grandfather, who had a separate chocolate business.
A: That's a lesson. It's not often that you get a second chance. In 1994, as my cousins and siblings showed an interest in joining the business, we gathered and said we can never let family dysfunction derail this business.
Q: So many family businesses fail at the second generation, let alone make it to a third.
A: We committed then to work with a family business consultant to ensure that our roles and responsibilities, that our individual dynamics, are clear and healthy and enhance the business. We almost became another one of these family business statistics.
Q: And now?
A: We've increased the business sevenfold since then. We have our G-3 (Generation Three) meetings on a quarterly basis. It's a check-in to make sure we are all in sync with our roles in the business and where we are taking the business.
Q: What most threatens a family business?
A: To me, entitlement is a poison. Joining the family business should never be seen as an obligation or an entitlement.
Q: You told me that you eat chocolate every day. In fact, you have a stash in your desk drawer. How come you're so skinny?
A: I'm very passionate about cycling. I like to do endurance rides in the mountains out west. To me, it's a great release.
Q: Favorite chocolate?
A: I love all chocolate. My wife made a chocolate souffle last night. I like to see if I can tell where the beans come from.
Q: For example?
A: An Ecuadoran bean has a light acidity, a little winey and fruity. A West African bean tends to be milder and more chocolaty.
Title: President, chief operating officer, Blommer Chocolate Co.
Family: Wife, Ellen; children, Will, 19, Madeleine, 18, Matthew, 16.
Diplomas: Georgetown University, government and economics; Harvard University, master's in business administration.
Resume: Investment banking, then business development for Dole Food Co. Joined Blommer in 1991.
Industry leadership: Chaired the Chocolate Manufacturers Assn., the Chocolate Council of the National Confectioners' Assn., PMCA, formerly the Penna. Manufacturing Confectioners Assn.
Business: Cocoa bean processor, producer of cocoa butter, cocoa powder and chocolate. Specialty products.
Here: East Greenville
Pounds of product produced: 750 million, nearly 300 million here.
Percentage of U.S. cocoa bean grind: 50
Tons ground: 200,000 metric tons a year
Employees: 650 total, 250 in East Greenville.EndText
Peter Blommer on whether to join your family's business. www.inquirer.com/jobbing