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    BUSINESS: Pinnacle Foods Group Acquires Birds Eye Foods

    Pinnacle Foods Group, LLC has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Birds Eye Foods, Inc. from a holding company controlled by Vestar Capital Partners, Pro-Fac Cooperative and Birds Eye management in a deal valued at $1.3 billion.

    Pinnacle Foods Group, LLC has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Birds Eye Foods, Inc. from a holding company controlled by Vestar Capital Partners, Pro-Fac Cooperative and Birds Eye management in a deal valued at $1.3 billion.

    Mountain Lakes, N.J.-based Pinnacle Foods, owned by private equity funds controlled by The Blackstone Group, manufactures and distributes iconic branded packaged foods, including Duncan Hines baking mixes and frostings; Vlasic pickles, peppers and relish; Mrs. Butterworth’s and Log Cabin syrups; Armour canned meats; Swanson and Hungry-Man frozen dinners and entrees; Van de Kamp’s and Mrs. Paul’s frozen seafood; Aunt Jemima frozen breakfast; Lender’s bagels; and Celeste frozen pizza.

    “The Birds Eye brand has $640 million in net sales in the U.S. and strong health and nutrition credentials, along with proven extendibility into new segments and occasions,” noted Pinnacle Foods CEO Bob Gamgort. “The transaction provides meaningful opportunities to create value, and strengthens our financial position. This compelling combination creates a leader in both the frozen and shelf-stable business segments, and enables us to better serve our consumers and customers.”

    “Birds Eye adds another market-leading brand to the Pinnacle Foods platform and creates an attractive, diversified food company with significant scale,” added Prakash Melwani, senior managing director of The Blackstone Group, a New York-based investment and advisory firm. Melwani said that Pinnacle Foods would continue to expand “organically and via acquisitions.”

    “Birds Eye Foods has been a highly successful investment for Vestar Capital Partners and its investors,” observed Brian K. Ratzan, managing director of New York-based international private equity firm Vestar. “The company has grown significantly in the past few years, and today, Birds Eye Foods is an exciting business with innovative products and tremendous potential. Pinnacle Foods is a great place for the Birds Eye brand. It will have the resources of a larger food company platform as it expands its leadership position.”

    Pinnacle Foods will fund the acquisition through a combination of new debt financing at the company and a significant new equity contribution from Blackstone. The deal, which is expected to occur no later than the first quarter of 2010, is subject to customary conditions, among them regulatory approvals.

    Besides its well-known frozen products, Rochester, N.Y.-based Birds Eye is the regional marketer of such brands as Comstock and Wilderness pie fillings and toppings, Nalley and Brooks chili and chili ingredients, Bernstein’s and Nalley salad dressings, snacks from Tim’s Cascade Snacks, Snyder of Berlin and Husman, and the Birds Eye Fresh premium line of fresh vegetables.

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