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Dole Foods accepts CEO's sweetened offer to take company private

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Dole Food Company Inc. has evolved from a Hawaiian pineapple purveyor into the world’s largest producer of fresh fruit and vegetables. Dole's board has accepted an offer from CEO David Murdock and his family are offering to buy the business and take it private.

Dole Food Company said Monday that it has accepted an offer from CEO David Murdock to buy the company and take it private. The deal values the Westlake Village-based company at $1.2 billion.

Murdock and members of his family already own a 40 percent stake in the company. Two months ago, they offered to pay $12  per share for the remaining stock. The offer Dole’s board has accepted is sweeter: $13.50 per share, a 5 percent premium over its $12.81 Friday closing price.

If the deal goes through, it won’t be the first time David Murdock has taken Dole private. He did so in 2003, then took it public again in 2009.   

Dole is one of the world’s largest  and best-known producers and sellers of fresh fruits and vegetables. Its 2012 revenues were $4.2 billion. Dole sold its packaged foods and Asia fresh business for $1.69 billion in a deal that closed in April.

As a public company, Dole has struggled to deliver stable earnings because the volatile nature of the produce business. Prices for bananas have fallen and recent weather conditions have caused losses in its strawberry business as well. 

Shareholders must first approve Murdock's offer before it's complete. Though the board unanimously approved the deal, Dole will have a 30-day period in which it can actively seek out alternative bids from other parties.

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