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Tootsie Roll Appoints 83-Year-Old Widow as CEO; Sale Rumors Swirl

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Melvin Gordon, the 95-year-old CEO of Tootsie Roll, passed away on Tuesday after more than 50 years at the company’s helm, igniting interest in a potential sale as Gordon’s 83-year-old wife, Ellen, was announced as his successor.

University of Chicago

Founded in 1896, the Gordon family inherited control of Tootsie Roll from Ellen’s father, and, over the years, purchased a suite of similarly beloved candy brands, including Charms Blow Pops, Charleston Chew, Junior Mints and Dots. In its latest earnings release, the Chicago-based company had reported a profit of $45 million on revenue of $402 million for the first nine months of 2014.

Gordon, who was the oldest chief executive of any company listed on the or the , was notorious for running Tootsie Roll with an iron fist.

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Though publicly traded, the Gordon family controls the company via majority ownership of its class B stock -- shares of which are worth 10 votes to the common stock’s one vote. And according to a Wall Street Journal profile in 2012, the company “shuns journalists, refuses to hold quarterly earnings calls and issues crookedly-scanned PDFs for its earnings releases.” 

While Tootsie Roll said that Ellen Gordon’s appointment was in accordance with a succession plan, that plan has not been made public. The couple has four daughters -- one of whom, Karen Gordon Mills, served as administrator of the Small Administration from 2009 to 2013.

Following news of Gordon’s death, shares in the company surged on speculation that a potential sale could be imminent. Tootsie Roll, which boasts a $2 billion valuation, could be a delectable target for , Hershey, Mars or Nestle, according to Bloomberg, though the company’s treasurer, Barry Bowen, told the outlet that “Mrs. Gordon always felt our best prospects were to remain independent.”

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