Dole Food Co. Chief Executive Officer David Murdock and a former executive of the fresh-fruit producer were ordered to pay $148.1 million over allegations they drove down the value of the company so Murdock could take it private on the cheap in a $1.2 billion deal, Bloomberg News reported Aug. 27.
Murdock received an “improper personal benefit” from the deal, in which he paid $13.50 a share to regain control of one of the world’s largest sellers of fresh fruit and vegetables, Delaware Chancery Court Judge Travis Laster ruled Aug. 27. The judge also found Michael Carter, Dole’s ex-president, should be held personally liable for investors losses on the buyout.
The two executives’ actions “deprived shareholders of the ability to consider the merger on a fully informed basis,” the judge ruled. Laster also cleared of any wrongdoing officials at Deutsche Bank AG who advised Murdock on the deal.
Morgan Evans, a Dole spokeswoman, said the company didn’t have any comment on Laster’s ruling.