Jeff Smith noon, March 8
Food fight: Dole CEO accused of taking company private on the cheap
Dole Food, the largest tenant on San Diego’s working waterfront, is facing a challenge as shareholders fight a move by chairman and CEO David Murdock to privately acquire the company for $1.5 billion, or $12 per share.
In 2012 the company signed a 24.5 year lease extension to keep operations at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal.
Per the complaint, as reported by Courthouse News Service, Dole is the world’s largest producer of fruits and vegetables, logging $4.2 billion in revenues in 2012.
At issue is a claim that the 90 year-old Murdock, who states that he intends to live to the age of 125, is attempting to buy the company at a deflated value due to a recent drop in demand for bananas, the primary cargo that Dole offloads in San Diego’s ports.
Previous actions from Murdock seem to support his detractors’ claims – in 2002 he took the company private, only to re-list it on public exchanges in 2009. At that time, a shareholder challenge forced him to raise his offer price to privatize the company from $29.50 a share to $33.50.
“Less than four years after Dole's second IPO, Murdock has changed his story again and is telling shareholders that his lowball going-private $12 per share offer is in their best interests, at the same time his best interests are obviously served by acquiring such shares at the lowest possible price since he is the buyer,” the suit alleges.
Murdock has given the board of directors a July 31 deadline to accept his offer and complete the transaction to once again convert the company to private ownership.
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