Murdoch pays $1.4B to take Dole private

Dole Food Co. Inc. chairman & chief executive David H. Murdock today confirmed the Wednesday buyout of the fruit and vegetable giant, after more than three-quarters of the company’s independent shareholders — who together owned the other 76 percent of Dole’s stock — voted in favor of the sale for a reported $33.50 per share. Murdock owns 97 percent of the island of Lanai, after he personally took control of the property from Dole in the late 80s.

“This transaction is a momentous occasion in Dole’s 152-year history, and we are extremely excited about the long-term advantages for Dole without the short- term pressures and constraints of the public equities markets,” Murdock said today. “As a privately-held company, Dole will be better positioned to achieve its growth and earnings potential.”

Murdock, 79, cited the current economic climate for the buyout. He has served as the chief executive of Dole since 1985, the same year he initiated ambitious and sometimes controversial plans to transform Lanai from a lost plantation into a tourist Mecca.

Trading of the company’s stock (NYSE:DOL) was to be halted today on the New York Stock Exchange. The closing price was $33.48.

The $1.4-billion buyout comes with an additional $1.24 billion in debt, a transaction valued at $2.5 billion. Murdock’s offer came four months after shareholders rejected an initial offer of $29.50 a share.

Dole reported its 2002 revenues at $4.4 billion.

Last June, Dole named former Bank of Hawaii head Richard Dahl as its chief financial officer and vice president.

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