Murdock taking Dole public; $500 million the goal of initial stock offering
By Emily Ford
David Murdock, billionaire founder of the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis, will sell the fresh produce giant Dole Food Co.
Murdock, 86, the sole stockholder of Dole Food since he took the company private in 2003, registered Friday morning with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering that the company hopes will raise $500 million.
If approved by the SEC, the company plans to list the common stock on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “DOLE.”
Murdock’s investment in the Research Campus, which is expected to top $1 billion, did not necessitate the sale of Dole Food, said Lynne Scott Safrit, president of campus developer Castle & Cooke North Carolina.
“His investment in the North Carolina Research Campus has nothing to do with it,” Safrit wrote in an e-mail, “and Dole is a totally separate company.”
Dole Food will have a research and development laboratory at the biotechnology complex in downtown Kannapolis, which is built on the ruins of a textile manufacturing plant that Murdock also once owned. The 350-acre campus focuses on human health, nutrition and agriculture.
Dole Food did not reveal the price or amount of shares it plans to sell, but the offering will include newly issued shares and an unspecified number of shares owned by Murdock.
The company will use proceeds from the sale to “pay down certain indebtedness, and the remaining net proceeds, if any, for general corporate purposes,” spokesperson Marty Ordman said in a statement.
The company had more than $2 billion in debt at the end of June.
Murdock rescued Dole from bankruptcy in 1985 when he acquired it as part of his purchase of Castle & Cooke, a real estate development firm. He split the two companies in 1995 and took Castle & Cooke private in 2000 and Dole three years later.
Murdock stepped down as chief executive officer of Dole in June 2007, replaced by David DeLorenzo.
After the sale, Murdock will continue to have controlling ownership and influence over the management and affairs of the company.
Goldman Sachs & Co., Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank and Wells Fargo are underwriting the initial public offering.
Dole has been selling assets to pay down debt. Earlier this month, Dole said it plans to sell certain operating properties in Latin America for about $68 million. The deal is expected to close in its fiscal third quarter.
Earlier this year, Dole sold 2,000 acres in Hawaii for about $39 million, as well as its flowers division.
Dole has a $54 million salad-packaging plant in Bessemer City, west of Charlotte, its first facility in the state.
For the first half of 2009, Dole reported $3.3 billion in net revenue, down slightly from $3.7 billion in the first half of last year. The company had 2008 revenue of $7.6 billion.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.