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Dole CEO offers $1.1 billion to take firm private

By   /   Tuesday, June 11th, 2013  /   Comments Off on Dole CEO offers $1.1 billion to take firm private

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Westlake Village-based Dole Food Co.’s stock soared more than 21 percent Tuesday morning as CEO David Murdock made a cash offer of $12 a share for the 60 percent of the company he doesn’t own in a deal valued at $1.1 billion.

Dole is one of the biggest producers and importers of fresh fruit and vegetables in the United States. The buyout offer comes as the company has struggled with losses – they totaled $65.6 million in the first quarter – largely related to its packaged foods business. Dole sold that packaged food business and its Asian fresh foods line to Japan-based Itochu Corp. for $1.7 billion earlier this year.

That move helped Dole deleverage, and Murdock has liquidated a few personal assets as well. He sold off 98 percent of of Lanai, a 141-square mile Hawaiian island, to fellow billionaire and Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison for $500 million, according to Forbes.

In a release announcing the deal, Murdock said he has hired Deutsche Bank to advise him on the transaction and has received a “highly confident” letter from the firm saying that the deal can be financed given the “additional funding that Mr. Murdock is prepared to commit.”

The offer price is an 18 percent premium over the previous day’s $10.20 close and represents a 10.2-times multiple of Dole’s anticipated earnings before taxes and other items, according to a news release.

Dole has fluctuated between private and public ownership. When Murdock put the company back on the stock market in 2009, shares debuted at $12.50 but did not rise as sharply as investors hoped. The current offer of $12 a share values the company higher than when its stock hit the market in 2009 because, without its packaged foods and Asian fresh foods business lines, it is considerably smaller than it once was.

Murdock said in a news release that he will not pursue the deal unless it is approved by a committee of independent investors and the majority of the shares he does not own. Murdock is seeking a binding agreement by July 31, according to a news release.

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