Lorenzo Servitje Created a Global Bread Company, Starting in Mexico

When Lorenzo Servitje and four partners set up a tiny bread-baking business in Mexico City in 1945, few would have seen the potential for a global food company. Mexico wasn’t known for bread. And the company’s name—Bimbo, a mashup of the words “bingo” and “Bambi”—didn’t sound very wholesome north of the border.

Yet Grupo Bimbo now makes sliced bread, salty snacks, cookies, cakes and tortillas at 169 plants scattered across 22 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Bolstered by a long series of acquisitions, Bimbo owns brands including Thomas’ English muffins, Sara Lee, Nature’s Harvest and Entenmann’s. Sales last year totaled 252.58 billion pesos ($12.3 billion), estimates J.P. Morgan Securities.

Mr. Servitje retired as chairman in 1994, and Bimbo is now headed by his son Daniel, who holds a master’s of business administration from Stanford University. But the co-founder remained on the board until 2001 and kept an office at the Mexico City headquarters long after that.

When he granted an interview to Dow Jones Newswires in 2005, he wore a modest gray suit and a Swatch watch. “I come every day because I’d get bored in my house,” Mr. Servitje said.

Mr. Servitje died Feb. 3 in Mexico City. He was 98.

The company described him as a “passionate reader” and said he had only one vice: buying books.

Don Lorenzo Servitje Sendra was born Nov. 20, 1918, in Mexico City. His parents immigrated from the Catalonian region of Spain. His father opened a bakery called El Molino, where young Lorenzo worked as a teenager. He studied accounting at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México but dropped out to take charge of the bakery when his father died. In 1945, he founded Bimbo with Jaime Jorba Sendra, José Trinidad Mata, Jaime Sendra Grimau and Alfonso Velasco Pérez.

By the early 1990s, Bimbo was Mexico’s biggest baker of bread and snack cakes. It began buying bakers in Central and South America. It also started making tortillas in Texas. In 1998, Bimbo bought Mrs. Baird’s Bakeries of Fort Worth, Texas. It later acquired baking operations from George Weston Ltd of Canada and U.S.-based Sara Lee Corp.

Mr. Servitje’s wife, Carmen Montull, died in 2002. He is survived by eight children, 24 grandchildren and 50 great grandchildren.

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