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Dole tests waters for $500M IPO

By   /   Friday, August 14th, 2009  /   Comments Off on Dole tests waters for $500M IPO

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Westlake Village-based Dole Food Co. said Aug. 14 that it has filed papers to become a public company again and plans to raise as much as $500 million.

With $7.6 billion in 2008 revenue, Dole is the largest private company in the Tri-Counties. The company was public until 2003, when owner and real estate magnate David Murdock bought the company out and took it private.

Dole said it hasn’t determined what the share price will be or how many shares will be allotted to Murdock. It did say that the cash raised would go partly toward paying down debt – which stood at about $2 billion on June 20 – and that Murdock would keep whatever he makes selling the shares that go to him.

Dole said that Goldman, Sachs & Co., Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank Securities and Wells Fargo Securities will act as joint book-running managers for the offering, which will happen via a prospectus that has yet to be released. The shares would trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DOLE.

The company also said Aug. 14 that it’s selling $325 million in private debt due in 2016 to pay off debt that is due next year. Those securities won’t be registered as public, the company said.

Murdock – who, with a net worth of $4.4 billion ranked at No. 84 on Forbes magazine’s list of the 400 richest Americans in 2008 – is Dole’s sole stockholder. Murdock is also the owner of the Four Seasons Westlake Village, an executive health resort, and was the developer of Lake Sherwood, an upscale golf course and country club near Westlake Village that has hosted the high-profile World Challenge golf tournament, a benefit for the Tiger Woods Foundation.

In recent years, Dole came under fire in a series of lawsuits from foreign workers that alleged pesticides used on the company’s plantations in Central America made them sterile. But in April, a Los Angeles County judge handed an unprecedented rebuke to the attorney handling cases on behalf of Nicaraguan workers, blasting the lawyer on evidence that he had fabricated many key parts of the case.

Earlier this month, Dole said its profit had fallen sharply in the second quarter to $20 million, down from about $181 million in the same period the year before. Though the company is private, it continues to report financial information because its debt is publicly traded.

This story was updated at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 14.

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