Léopold Louis-Dreyfus, the 18-year-old son of a farmer from Sierentz, Alsace, enters the grain business by purchasing wheat from local Alsatian farmers and taking it eight miles away to Basel, Switzerland, an important commercial center on the Rhine River between Germany and France. Seven years later he left Basel for Berne and extends the scope of his activities, buying grain products in Hungary and Romania.
Along with improved transportation systems connecting wheat markets, transatlantic cable facilitates communication between suppliers and consumers. Louis Dreyfus establishes a network of offices in Germany and France.
Louis Dreyfus headquarters transferred to Zurich, and it becomes an international trading operation, buying grain in the Danube basin and in Russia to meet the increasing demand of industrialized cities in Western Europe.
After the Franco-Prussian War, the Treaty of Frankfort ceded French Alsace to Germany. Léopold chooses French nationality with his official residence in Marseille. By 1875 he had established the company’s world headquarters in Paris.
Louis Dreyfus operates a small fleet of sail-and steam-driven general cargo vessels in the Azov and the Black Sea under Russian flags that supply Ukrainian grain to larger bulkers chartered by Louis Dreyfus.
At the turn of the century, Louis Dreyfus has offices throughout Europe, North and South America, Algeria, South Africa, India, Indo-China, China, Australia and especially in Russia where there were 114 offices by 1906.
The Banque Louis-Dreyfus is formed to facilitate the company’s financial operations in grain markets.
Louis Dreyfus opens its first office in the United States, in Duluth, Minnesota, and begins exporting durum wheat.
Louis Dreyfus opens its first office in Melbourne, Australia.
Louis Dreyfus moves its offices to New York and becomes a member of the New York Product Exchange engaged in general grain export and import transactions.
Léopold Louis-Dreyfus dies and is succeeded by his sons Louis Louis-Dreyfus (1867-1940) and Charles (1870-1929), who expand the business in North and South America and Russia (prior to the Revolution in 1917).
With the death of Léopold’s son Louis, the founder’s three grandsons, Jean Louis-Dreyfus (1908-2003), Francois (1909-1958) and Pierre Louis-Dreyfus (1908-2011) assume control of the company.
After World War II, the main exporting offices of Louis Dreyfus are in New York, Chicago, Winnipeg, Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Saigon, Johannesburg, Shanghai, Bombay and Melbourne.
GENERAL LAGOS SOYBEAN CRUSHING PLANT
Louis Dreyfus resumes operations and concentrates on rebuilding after World War II. Particular attention is given to re-establishing Louis Dreyfus Armateurs.
Gérard Louis-Dreyfus becomes chairman and redirects the Louis Dreyfus’s trading activities to capitalize on arbitrage opportunities in a variety of commodity markets, including rice, cotton and natural gas.
Louis Dreyfus Property Group is established to develop, own and manage first-class office buildings in North American and Europe.
Louis Dreyfus Energy begins trading energy products, including natural gas and crude oil.
The purchase of a small company engaged in exploration and production of oil and gas in the United States leads to the formation of Louis Dreyfus Natural Gas. An oil refinery in northwestern Germany with a capacity of 164,000 barrels per day is also purchased.
Louis Dreyfus Armateurs begins oceanographic survey activities.
The General Lagos soybean crushing plant and port facility on the Paraná River opens in Argentina. With a crushing capacity of 12,000 tons a day, it is one of the largest and most efficient plants in the world.
Louis Dreyfus establishes LDCOM at the time of telecommunications deregulation in France.
Louis Dreyfus Energy enters into an agreement with Electricité de France to create EDF Trading, an energy trading company to market wholesale electricity and fuels in Europe.
Neuf Telecom (formerly LDCOM) merges with Cegetel to create Neuf Cegetel.
Louis Dreyfus sells its Argentine and Brazilian forestry and particle board businesses.
Louis Dreyfus sells its oil refinery located in Wilhelmshaven, Germany and the related marketing businesses.
Gérard Louis-Dreyfus retires, as CEO of Louis Dreyfus.
Robert Louis-Dreyfus becomes CEO of Louis Dreyfus and restructures it into focused operating companies, each with their own management teams.
Louis Dreyfus Commodities opens the world’s largest integrated soybean-based biodiesel plant in Claypool, Indiana.
The shipping business of Louis Dreyfus (Louis Dreyfus Armateurs) is sold to Philippe Louis-Dreyfus.
Highbridge Capital Management and Louis Dreyfus form a joint venture, Louis Dreyfus Highbridge Energy LLC.
Louis Dreyfus sells its interest in Neuf Cegetel to SFR.
Margarita Louis-Dreyfus becomes Chairperson of the Supervisory Board of Louis Dreyfus Holding B.V., the holding company for the Louis Dreyfus group of companies.
Louis Dreyfus sells its commercial real estate business (Louis Dreyfus Property Group).
Louis Dreyfus sells a majority interest in Louis Dreyfus Highbridge Energy LLC to a group of investors.