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Murdock seeks to expand holdings of Dole Food

By Tiffany Hsu

Los Angeles Times


Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

David H. Murdock, the chief executive, chairman and largest shareholder of Dole Food Co. Inc., made an unsolicited offer to take over the Westlake Village, Calif., company for $12 a share.

The bid, which values the world's largest fresh fruit and vegetable producer at nearly $1.1 billion, represents an 18 percent premium over the stock's $10.20-per-share closing price Monday.

Murdock on Monday night presented his proposal to Dole's board, which said Tuesday that it will meet in the next few days to review its options. "The process of considering the proposal is only in its beginning stages," the board said.

The 90-year-old Murdock, who also said he would assume the company's debt in the transaction, owns nearly 40 percent of Dole's shares along with family members.

The Los Angeles billionaire said the total enterprise value of the deal, which he hopes to solidify by the end of July, is $1.5 billion. Dole, which was founded in 1851 in Hawaii, reported net revenue of $4.2 billion last year, down 11 percent from the previous year. Dole is the largest North American supplier of bananas, iceberg lettuce and cauliflower.

This wouldn't be Murdock's first run at the privatizing game. He last took over Dole more than a decade ago in 2003, when he held just 24 percent of outstanding shares, but then took it public in 2009 in its second initial public offering.

This time around, analysts at financial services firm Janney called Murdock's proposal "an attractive transition that is likely to proceed at or relatively close to this price level," despite what they called "tougher than average near-term trends in bananas."

Working in the billionaire's favor is his strong personal liquidity position, helped along by his recent sale of most of the island of Lanai to Oracle honcho Larry Ellison for hundreds of millions of dollars in cash, though the exact price has not been disclosed.

In recent years Dole has been seeking a smaller footprint. In April, Dole wrapped up the sale of its global packaged foods and Asia fresh foods business — representing a third of its revenues and more than half of its operating income — to Japa­nese firm Ito­chu Corp. for nearly $1.7 billion.

Murdock, who ranks among the wealthiest Americans with a net worth pegged by Forbes at $2.7 billion, owned Lanai for more than 25 years.

Murdock acquired his initial stake in Lanai when he rescued publicly traded Castle & Cooke, one of Hawaii's oldest companies, from bankruptcy in 1985 and became chairman and chief executive. In 2000 he acquired the balance of Castle & Cooke for $675 million.

Castle & Cooke's ownership of Lanai stemmed from an acquisition James Dole made in 1922 to expand his Hawaiian Pineapple Co. Ltd., which was later renamed Dole Food Co., and establish the world's largest pineapple plantation.


Star-Advertiser staff and Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

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