Apollo approached Sara Lee about buyout

By Reuters
Posted Oct. 5, 2010 at 10:54 a.m.

Private equity firm Apollo Global Management approached food company Sara Lee about six weeks with regards to a deal, a source familiar with the matter said on Monday.

It was unclear if anything will come of that approach.

A deal would likely to have been struck in conjunction with investor C. Dean Metropoulos, a Connecticut entrepreneur known for reinvigorating food brands, who is an operating partner of Apollo, the source said.

Metropoulos bought Pabst Blue Ribbon beer in June. He was also once the joint owner of brands such as Duncan Hines baking mixes, Vlasic pickles and Swanson frozen dinners.

Sara Lee’s shares earlier jumped 7 percent on a report in the New York Post that the foodmaker received an unsolicited offer that could have been worth $12 billion from private equity firm KKR Co. Sara Lee’s board rebuffed the offer, the report said.

The New York Post also said it could arouse the interest of Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever.

Bloomberg earlier reported Apollo’s approach and said Sara Lee undertook a strategic review in August and chose not to explore a sale of the company.

Sara Lee shares closed up 97 cents, or 7.2 percent, at $14.40, after rising as much as 12.8 percent earlier in the session. Based on their closing price on Friday, Sara Lee had a market value of about $8.59 billion.

Sara Lee, KKR and Unilever all declined to comment. Apollo and Metropoulos were not immediately available to comment.

Private equity deal flow contracted after the credit crisis limited access to financing, but has been increasing this year. Many funds are sitting on large amounts of money to invest. Still, there has not yet been a return to the mega-buyouts of the $10 billion plus size seen in the previous M&A boom.

Morningstar equity analysts said Sara Lee would make an attractive buyout, given its free cash flow and low debt. The company’s management team is also in transition after CEO Brenda Barnes suffered a stroke in May and officially stepped down in August.

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