Sale of Westlake’s Dole Food Company falls through

IN FLUX–The Dole headquarters building Westlake Village.     Acorn file photo

Greenyard, a fresh and frozen foods company based in Belgium, announced that talks to acquire Westlake Village-based Dole Foods have broken off.

Negotiations last month involving Greenyard’s purchase of the world’s largest fruits and vegetables company ended without a deal, the company said in a Jan. 5 statement.

“We pursued all efforts to realise a transaction with financial and strategic merit that would have created value for all stakeholders involved, nevertheless an agreement could not be reached,” Greenyard’s executive chairman Hein Deprez said.

Slumping sales and mounting debt led Dole to announce last year that it was going public with a $100-million stock offering to Wall Street investors. The privately held company also said it had plans to shed holdings and close some of its operations, and that its 10-acre flagship headquarters property in Westlake Village had been put on the trading block. The move follows Dole’s intent to downsize berry production in California. The company told labor officials last summer that it planned to cease its Oxnard berry-growing operations and lay off 172 employees.

Dole said in its SEC stock filing it would use the money from private and institutional investors to pay down some of its reported $1.3 billion in debt. Other changes are afoot, including a pending ownership change of the Westlake headquarters building. A deal reportedly was in place that would transfer ownership of the corporate campus at One Dole Drive from Dole Food to Castle & Cooke, a private firm owned by Dole chairman and 94-year-old Lake Sherwood billionaire David Murdock.

The non-cash deal involved swapping the Dole Westlake headquarters for a plantation theme park in Hawaii owned by Castle & Cooke.

There hasn’t been an update on the Westlake real estate deal, and there is no word on how the failed buyout by Greenyard would affect Dole’s plans to go public.  Greenyard said the breakdown in Dole talks would not hamper it’s own ability to compete in the world fruit and vegetable market.

“While the acquisition of Dole by Greenyard would have marked a significant milestone for both companies, we are confident that Greenyard has the right strategy and priorities in place to continue generating profitable growth and strengthening our global leadership position in fruit and vegetables,” Deprez said.

—John Loesing