Tootsie Roll keeps secretive profile, keeps analysts guessing

Geoffrey Malloy Contributor
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Tootsie Roll Industries, the manufacturer of Tootsie Rolls, Dots, Blow Pops, and other candies, has grown increasingly secretive, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Melvin Gordon, now 92, is the oldest CEO of a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. His wife, Ellen Gordon, 80, serves as the company’s president and COO.

The most recent interview granted by the Gordons was a 2010 story in Chicago Jewish News.

Tootsie Roll Industries issued a statement declining to grant interviews, stating, “We have opted to use our quarterly earnings releases as a way to provide continuing updates to all business media at once.”

Those earnings releases are generally crooked-scanned PDFs instead of glossy brochures or polished press releases. The company does not hold quarterly earnings calls for media. or market analysts

Elliot Schlang, a securities industry analyst for Great Lakes Review, gave up trying to obtain information about the candy maker last year. “I think the only way you can get a tour is by jumping over the fence and sneaking in,” he remarked.

New questions have surfaced about the future and viability of Tootsie Roll as Gordon and his wife grow older.

Their company has not publicly disclosed any succession plans, but a company spokeswoman has insisted that a plan has been discussed with the board of directors.

Some analysts point to the flurry of candy maker buyouts in recent years as evidence that Tootsie Roll will eventually be acquired. In the past four years, Mars Inc., Kraft Foods Inc. and Hersey Co. have purchased smaller candy makers.

“We know at some point it makes sense for there to be a sale,” Gambelli Funds LLC analyst Kevin Dryer said. “I’ve always thought this is a business that is difficult to compete with much larger companies.”

In 2008, Gambelli raised its stake in the company from approximately 1 percent to just under 6 percent. The Gordons maintain control of Tootsie Roll through their majority stake inof the company’s Class B stock, each share of which is worth ten times the common stock.

Tootsie Roll was founded in 1896 by Leo Hirshfield, a New York City chocolate maker. Ellen Gordon’s father managed the company in the 1950s and eventually passed control to her. Her husband became CEO in 1962.

The couple’s eldest daughter, Karen Mills, 58, is the current head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, a position to which President Obama appointed her in April 2009.

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