Campbell wants to sell its fresh-foods unit, and some investors aren’t happy about it

Campbell’s announced they may have finally found a buyer for its beleaguered health foods unit, further causing unrest between the company’s board members and Third Point -- an activist investment firm that owns around 5% of the company.


October 8, 2018

The Wall Street Journal reports that Warhol’s muse is in talks to sell its fresh-foods biz, including subsidiaries Bolthouse Farms and Garden Fresh, to a group of investors led by Bolthouse’s former CEO, Jeff Dunn. 

Dunn, who as CEO of Bolthouse helped a private-equity firm sell it to Campbell for $1.5B in 2012, also co-founded and remains an investor in Campbell’s venture-capital fund, Acre Venture Partners.  

If you’re thinking, isn’t this literally the opposite of what every other food company has been doing since 2015? 

You’re not alone — and not everyone in Campbell’s corner thinks it’s a great move.

The honeymoon is over

The fresh-foods unit, which includes fresh carrots, refrigerated juices and other products, hasn’t exactly performed the way Campbell’s investors were hoping. 

Bolthouse’s sales and operating profit have dipped over the years, and the business has reportedly been plagued with supply chain issues.

Campbell hopes to sell for between $500m and $700m, but opposing investors think selling off one of its units would be like putting a Band-Aid on an Ebola patient.

Disorder in the can

Campbell faces pressure from activist investment firms, including Third Point LLC, to bypass the asset yard sale and push for a sale of the entire company.

Now the soupsmith and the hedge fund have entered into a proxy battle with Third Point’s fearless leader, Daniel Loeb, who is calling for an upheaval of the company’s entire 12-person board.

Third Point has a lot to say

According to Loeb, Campbell “completely botched” its move into fresh foods and believes Campbell could get between $52 and $58 per share in a sale.

Loeb has also alleged that Campbell’s former CEO, Denise Morrison (who resigned in May), collected “lavish perks,” with compensation totaling more than $60m during her 7-year tenure that ended in June.

Now, Campbell’s fate rests on the decision of Campbell heirs — who own at least 45% of the company’s stock.

Sounds like this company needs a souperhero.

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