Private equity group acquires frozen pizza company

by Josh Sosland
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RYE, N.Y. — Centerview Partners has announced the acquisition of Richelieu Foods, a manufacturer of frozen pizza and pourable products.

Centerview Partners is an investment banking advisory group and private equity business formed by senior Wall Street executives, including James M. Kilts, formerly the president and chief executive officer of Nabisco Holdings Co. Mr. Kilts earlier headed Kraft Foods and later was c.e.o. of Gillette Co.

Based in Randolph, Mass., Richelieu has annual sales of $250 million and supplies private label frozen pizza and private label and partner brand dressings and sauces to the retail and food service channels. With roots dating back to 1862, the company produces more than 50 million pizzas annually and employs 650 persons in four facilities in the Midwest — Beaver Dam, Wis. (pizza); Washington Court House, Ohio (crust); Elk Grove Village, Ill. (dressings and sauces); and Grundy Center, Iowa (dressings and sauces).

The Elk Grove facility was acquired from Sara Lee Corp. in 2008.

Richelieu continues operating a canned foods business, which was its entry into the food business more than 140 years ago.

In the pizza crust market, Richelieu offers product manufactured using a cold-press system.

“Among all the available methods of manufacturing pizza crust, none compares to the excellent results achieved by the double cold-pressed process,” the company said. “In fact, our process simulates the kneading and rising cycles used in pizzerias in all its crusts.”

The company offers a variety of frozen pizza options, including self-rising, brick oven, thin crust, focaccia, flat bread and organic.

“Frozen pizza, dressings and sauces are categories we know well,” Mr. Kilts said. “From the time we first learned about Richelieu, it was clear to us that the company’s innovative products and great service contributed to private label’s growth in these categories.”

Centerview said Richelieu management, including Vincent Fantegrossi, the company’s c.e.o., will remain with the company and members of management have made significant equity investments in the business.

“I am excited to partner with Centerview in this transaction,” Mr. Fantegrossi said. “Centerview’s team has significant experience in the pizza and pourable categories, and I believe their investment will help us accelerate the delivery of high-quality products at affordable prices to our retail customers and consumers.”

Centerview’s private equity business is based in Rye and focuses exclusively on middle- and upper-market consumer businesses. The company has about $600 million in committed capital. Richelieu is the second portfolio company for Centerview. The company owns a stake in The Nielsen Co., a market data provider for the consumer products and media industries.

Wall Street executives who established Centerview with Mr. Kilts include Robert A. Pruzan, formerly head of global investment banking at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein and president of Wasserstein Perella; Blair W. Effron, formerly group vice-chairman of UBS; Stephen S. Crawford, formerly co-president of Morgan Stanley; and Adam D. Chinn formerly partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. Mr. Kilts joined the firm as a founding partner to head the private equity business.

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