Billionaire brand-whisperer rescues NECCO with $17.3m purchase

After bankrupt Sweetheart-maker NECCO put itself on the auction block, C. Dean Metropoulos came to the rescue, like he has with Twinkies and PBR before it.

Charles Dean Metropoulos, the snack savant who rescued Twinkies, PBR, and Chef Boyardee from falling off their assembly lines into oblivion, purchased NECCO, the bankrupt makers of Sweethearts.

Billionaire brand-whisperer rescues NECCO with $17.3m purchase

It was a sweet deal for both Metropoulos and the candy company (which had been looking for a sweet-toothed savior).

The end of a bitter chapter for an aging sweetmaker

In March, the CEO of NECCO announced he would have to lay off nearly 400 workers if the company didn’t find a buyer. The move was a sweet stroke of PR genius — wafer-mania ensued as customers stockpiled chalky candies and buyers lined up.

When America’s oldest candy company went up for auction in bankruptcy court, a company called Spangler Candy Co (the family-owned maker of Dum-Dums and Circus Peanuts) won a bidding war that started at $15.5m with an $18.83m offer.

But, less than a week later, the deal dissolved after NECCO failed to meet unspecified conditions — and then the candy man made his move.

Move fast and bake things

Metropoulos eats dying brands for dessert, sniffing out business opportunities where brands’ names are bigger than their balance sheets. Using a “strip and flip” approach, the connoisseur of the cult classic buys bankrupt brands and then revamps their most popular products.

Using this strategy, Metropoulos put Pabst Blue Ribbon back on the map in just 4 years (for a $500m profit) and revitalized Twinkies (for a gain of more than $2B). Now he’s applying his Midas touch to NECCO’s famous Sweethearts.

A sweet deal for both parties 

Last week, Metropoulos incorporated a company called Sweetheart Candy to pave the way for increased production, starting his signature process of “rehabilitation” that will involve stripping the businesses to its sweetest essentials.

For NECCO, this is good news. Brands bought by the Metropoulos family — including Aunt Jemima, Chef Boyardee, Ghirardelli, Bumble Bee, Vlasic, Utz — tend to have an extended shelf life.

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