Investment firm buying local plant
Arbor Investments, founded in 1999 and headquartered in Chicago, Ill., is the expected purchaser of the Mars Petcare plant in Clinton.
Employees were told of the impending transaction Wednesday morning, and it was confirmed in a joint announcement Thursday from Arbor and Mars. The announcement said the deal is expected to close by the end of the year and is subject to customary closing conditions and approvals, including those of a regulatory nature.
Clinton Mayor David Berrong said Thursday morning he had just spoken with Brad Figel, Mars vice-president of public affairs for North America, and everything sounds extremely good.
“He told me according to Arbor Investments people, everything was to stay the same for the foreseeable future,” said Berrong. “In fact, the leadership (of the Clinton plant) would be staying with Arbor. He said it was a better deal than they even hoped for.”
Berrong said Arbor is a $3-billion company, and he shared with the Clinton Daily News an email he had just received from Figel. In it, Figel said Arbor has acquired and grown over 55 mid-sized food and beverage companies in North America.
But some of its investors also have interests in the pet food business.
Probable sale of the Clinton plant and the Exclusive Brands line of pet foods manufactured here and at four other locations had been announced by Mars at the end of July. However, it did not say then who the buyer might be.
Mars operates in the former Collins & Aikman building north of the Custer County Fairgrounds in south Clinton. City Clerk Lisa Anders said tax records show the building and related property are now owned by Doane Products Co./Mars Petcare U.S. after being sold by the City of Clinton to Doane in 1998.
Records at the Chamber of Commerce show the plant with 95 employees, which would place it among the top 10 employers in Clinton. They work in three shifts per day.
Berrong said Figel indicated this should be a “seamless transition” for the plant, with some of its leadership either transferring to Arbor and staying here or being loaned back for a time by Mars.
“Either way, he felt the managerial structure would stay the same for Clinton,” said the mayor.
Other Mars plants being sold to Arbor are located at Miami, Okla.; Orangeburg, S.C.; Washington Court House, Ohio; and San Bernardino, Calif.
The joint press release said the agreement includes the division of Mars Petcare that produces private-label food products for a variety of U.S. customers.
It quoted Tim Fallon, senior operating partner for Arbor, as saying that acquisition of the Exclusive Brands line of products from Mars – along with prior successful investments in Meow Mix and Freshpet by another Arbor investor, Chris Harned – “provides us with a proven platform for both internal and acquisition-driven growth opportunities.”
“Arbor Investments is a specialized private equity firm that focuses exclusively on acquiring premier companies in the food, beverage and related industries,” said the release.
For Mars, it said disposition of the company’s Exclusive Brands arm will give it an opportunity to focus on its branded portfolio which includes such names as Pedigree, Iams and Greenies.
In his email to Berrong, Figel said Mars has “deeply valued our partnership with you and the Clinton site,” and he promised to continue providing updates.
The mayor likewise praised the company, which had been rather reticent in its years here. “They are being a good neighbor in speaking to us, which speaks to the quality of the Mars company,” he said.