NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Vestar Capital Partners (“Vestar”), a leading global private equity firm, today announced that it has reached a definitive agreement to purchase the laundry business of Unilever in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, which includes the All, Wisk, Sunlight, Surf, and Snuggle brands, for $1.45 billion. This business will be merged with Huish Detergents Inc. (“Huish”), majority owned by Vestar since April 2007, to create a new company which will be named The Sun Products Corporation (“Sun Products”), with annual sales of more than $2 billion.
The consideration consists of a cash payment of $1.075 billion, preferred shares of The Sun Products Corporation with a face value of $375 million, and warrants offering the opportunity to acquire up to 2.5 percent of the combined common equity in The Sun Products Corporation.
Huish is a leading manufacturer of detergents, fabric softeners, dish care and personal care products under private label names for major retailers and brand names such as Sun and White Rain.
Upon closing of the transaction, Neil P. DeFeo, an experienced consumer-products executive and a current Huish director, will become CEO of The Sun Products Corporation. Dan Huish, founder and chairman of Huish, will be chairman of the Board of the new company.
David P. Lundstedt, currently president and CEO of Huish, will become president of the merged business, reporting to Mr. DeFeo. William H. Littlefield, currently vice president and general manager of the Unilever business, will join The Sun Products Corporation as executive vice president and general manager of Branded Products. In addition, the management team of The Sun Products Corporation will include senior managers from both companies.
The transaction is expected to close during the next couple of months, subject to regulatory review and customary closing conditions.
Vestar has been investing in consumer products companies – such as Remington, Prestone, Gold Toe, Birds Eye Foods, and Michael Foods – for more than two decades. “Combining these two companies creates a strong new company in the growing North American laundry market,” said Daniel S. O’Connell, CEO of Vestar. “Huish is the leading private label business in the U.S. and the Unilever brands are some of the best known in the industry. Together as The Sun Products Corporation, these businesses will be able to compete in all segments of the market, and Vestar is pleased to back this combination. In addition, we welcome Neil as CEO of the combined company, complemented by a group of talented managers and associates.”
Mr. DeFeo said, “I am excited about the merger of these two great businesses. As a current Huish board member, I have a deep appreciation of the business that Dan Huish and his team have built over the last 30 years. Uniting this company with the strong heritage of the Unilever business will create one of the most compelling product lineups in the market. This will allow us to serve the needs of our retail customers and consumers better, while at the same time providing significant career opportunities for associates across the organizations.”
“I have always felt that combining the strength of our company with an established branded business would bring the best of both worlds together,” said Mr. Huish. “With the creation of Sun Products, this dream is finally coming true and I look forward to seeing what these two great businesses can accomplish together.”
The Sun Products Corporation will maintain offices in Fairfield County, Connecticut, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Toronto, Canada. The merged company will have manufacturing facilities across the country including the current Unilever location in Baltimore, Maryland, which is part of this transaction.
Most recently, Mr. DeFeo served as chairman and CEO of Playtex Products, Inc. until its sale in October 2007. Prior to Playtex, Mr. DeFeo was chairman and CEO of the Remington Products Company. He has also held key management positions at The Clorox Company and at The Procter & Gamble Company.
Prior to joining Huish earlier this year, Mr. Lundstedt served in several senior leadership positions with Honeywell International Inc., most recently as president of the Consumer Products Group. Before joining Honeywell in 1997, Mr. Lundstedt served as president and CEO of Prestone Products Corp.
Mr. Littlefield joined Unilever in 1981 and was appointed vice president and general manager of the North American Laundry business in 2006. During his tenure with Unilever, he served as senior vice president of Customer Development for Home and Personal Care North America and vice president, general manager of the North America Skin Care business unit.
JPMorgan and Lehman Brothers Inc. acted as advisors to Vestar Capital Partners and Huish Detergents and, together with GE Capital Markets, Inc., arranged financing in connection with the transaction.
About Vestar Capital Partners
Vestar Capital Partners is a leading global private equity firm with $7 billion in assets under management. The firm focuses on companies in the U.S., Europe and Japan with valuations of $100 million to $5 billion and operations in five key industry sectors: consumer/services, diversified industries, healthcare, media/communication, and financial services. Since the firm’s founding in 1988, the Vestar funds have completed 65 investments in companies with a total value of more than $20 billion. For more information, please visit www.vestarcapital.com.
Huish Detergents has been producing private label laundry detergent and household cleaners since 1976. Today, the company is the largest manufacturer of private label laundry detergents and fabric softener in North America. In addition, the company produces the Sun line of branded detergent products. Huish Detergents focuses on high efficiency, low cost and high quality in the manufacture of all of its laundry products. For more information, go to www.huish.com.
Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of fast-moving consumer goods with strong local roots in more than 100 countries across the globe. Its portfolio includes some of the world’s best known and most loved brands including twelve €1 billion brands and global leadership in many categories in which the company operates. The portfolio features brand icons such as: Knorr, Hellmann’s, Lipton, Country Crock, Flora/Becel and Bertolli, as well as Dove, Lux, Pond's, Axe/Lynx and Sunsilk. Major laundry brands outside North America include Omo, Persil , Ala , Skip and Surf. Unilever has approximately 174,000 employees in approaching 100 countries and generated annual sales of over €40 billion in 2007. For more information about Unilever and its brands, please visit www.unilever.com
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