HMTF Gets ConAgra Unit for $1.4 Billion –

In its latest large food industry deal, Dallas-based Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst will acquire ConAgra Meats Co. with Booth Management Corp. in a deal valued at around $1.4 billion.

ConAgra Meats Co. is the beef and pork processing division of ConAgra Foods and will be renamed after one of its brands, Swift & Co., while ConAgra Foods will retain a minority interest in the company. The group’s current president, John Simons, is assuming the title of CEO. Vail, Colo.-based Booth Creek is an investor in meatpacking and processing operations and will also have a minority stake in the company.

The acquisition is expected to be closed by August and includes the U.S. operations, the Australian operations, and the U.S. cattle feed operations of ConAgra Meats.

In June 2000, Hicks Muse sold portfolio company International Home Foods to ConAgra for approximately $1.6 billion.

Last May, Hicks Muse bought a unit of Nestle’s in the U.K. and Ireland through Premier International Foods. This acquisition alone gave Hicks Muse several food-related businesses, including Crosse & Blackwell, Branston Pickle, Sarson’s vinegar, Waistline salad dressing, Gale’s honey, Sun-Pat peanut butter, and Rowntree’s jelly brands. Combined, these brands generated GBP100 million (or $146.6 million) in 2001 sales. One month before, in April 2001, Hicks Muse acquired the North American assets of Vlasic Foods International Inc. for $370 million.

John Muse, a partner at Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, said in a statement that this ConAgra deal gives his firm leading positions in both the beef and pork processing industries. He could not be reached for further comment by press time. However, according to industry reports, the firm will take a buy-and-build approach with the acquisition and plans to add more processed meat products under the Swift brand name.

In other Hicks Muse news, Dr. Henry Kissinger has joined the firm’s Europe strategy board, while Ambassador Richard Fisher has joined HMTF’s Latin America strategy board.

Hicks Muse formed the Europe strategy board in 1999 following the launch of Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst Europe Fund I. It is led by Brian Mulroney, formerly the Prime Minister of Canada.

Mulroney said of Kissinger’s appointment in a statement: “His unique insights concerning the geopolitical and competitive landscape and outlook in Europe and around the world will be enormously useful to our firm.”

Kissinger served as Secretary of State under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford from September 1973 to January 1977.

Regarding Fisher’s appointment, Thomas Hicks, chairman and CEO of the firm, said HMTF continues to have a significant investment presence in Latin America and despite its current economic challenges, the region and HMTF’s investments still have significant long-term potential.

“The insights of Richard Fisher will… have real value in helping us better evaluate and realize that potential,” he said in a statement.

Contact Holly Werner at: