Mexican bakery magnate Lorenzo Servitje dies at 98

FILE - In this Aug. 23, 2005 file photo, Lorenzo Servitje, founder of international snack and baked-goods empire Grupo Bimbo, gives an interview in Mexico City, Mexico. Servitje has died at the age of 98, according to the head of Mexico’s Business Coordinating Council on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. Servitje was born in Mexico on Nov. 20, 1918, the son of a Spanish immigrant who started a bakery. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

MEXICO CITY — Mexican bakery magnate Lorenzo Servitje has died at the age of 98 after building his Grupo Bimbo into an international snack and baked-goods empire that acquired brands like Entenmann's, Thomas', Freihofer's and Stroehmann.

Grupo Bimbo said Servitje died Friday in Mexico City, but did not mention the cause of death.

The head of Mexico's Business Coordinating Council, Juan Pablo Castanon, called his death "a great loss for Mexico."

Servitje was born in Mexico on Nov. 20, 1918, the son of a Spanish immigrant who started a bakery.

Servitje launched Grupo Bimbo in 1945 with other partners, starting with 38 employees and 10 delivery vehicles.

The company now operates in 22 countries, with 100 brands and it recorded over $10.7 billion in sales in 2015.

Starting with bread, the company branched into snacks, tortillas and other bakery products. The company is known for its mascot, a small white bear.

Bimbo expanded strongly into the United Sates, purchasing Mrs. Baird's Bakeries in Texas in 1998. Bimbo Bakeries USA acquired the western U.S. baking business of George Weston Ltd., adding brands like Oroweat, Entenmann's, Thomas' and Boboli.

In 2009, Grupo Bimbo purchased the remaining U.S. fresh baked goods business of George Weston Ltd., acquiring brands like Arnold, Brownberry, Freihofer's and Stroehmann.

Servitje was preceded in death by his wife, Carmen Montull. The couple had eight children, 24 grandchildren and 48 great-grandchildren.

Servitje was known for his reflections on the ethical role of Mexico's business community, and he wrote both books and articles.

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