As officials with American Dehydrated Foods LLC and Symrise AG move toward closing on one of the largest business sales in Springfield history, the German-based company sent a French executive to Springfield on Feb. 13 for a closer look.
Jean-Yves Parisot took time out of his schedule full of employee meetings, and still feeling a little jet lag from his flight from France, to sit down with Springfield Business Journal in an ADF/IDF conference room to talk about the impending $900 million acquisition.
Parisot is the president of Symrise’s nutrition division, which also came into the fold via an acquisition, this one of France-based Diana Group for $1.8 billion in 2014.
“My objective is to come here to answer questions people might have about how Symrise is organized, how Diana is organized, [and] what is our vision because we are really sharing the same vision with ADF/IDF,” Parisot said of his visit.
Parisot said the vision is to strengthen the pet food and nutrition divisions of Symrise, a publicly traded company on the OTC Markets Group, under the ticker symbol SYIEY.
“For us, it’s an important move into pet food,” he said. “It will be a two-legged activity and, at the end of the day, to provide to the customer a much better offer and a much better service.”
Once the purchase closes, Parisot said, ADF/IDF would work with the nutrition and flavor divisions of Symrise.
Parisot said there hasn’t yet been any discussion about future roles for current ADF executives or how the future board of directors would be structured.
“The idea is to have the teams work after the closing, sitting together, and define what could be the best target organization for both ADF/IDF and Diana,” he said. “I cannot tell you anything about titles, but I can tell you everything will be done in full respect of people for the benefit of the customers.”
Currently at ADF, which recorded $220 million in 2018 revenue, Andrew Herr is president and CEO, and Kurt Hellweg is chairman of the board.
“This opportunity allows our entities to benefit from the resources and expertise offered by Diana and Symrise due to the strength of their network,” Hellweg said in a statement emailed to SBJ. “This will result in further enhancement of our customer platform and a strengthened international footprint. The cultural values of our companies are very similar, and we feel that this opportunity is a very god fit for our associates, our customers and our suppliers long term.”
Parisot said the goal after closing is to discuss the direction of the newly formed company with the management team of ADF/IDF.
“It’s more to see people and to have some very informal contact and to prepare post-closing and see how we can put in place some working groups for integration structure for not being totally surprised the day we get approved for closing,” he said of his visit. “It’s not a takeover. It’s more merger style.”
Parisot confirmed ADF would work with already established Symrise and Diana plants in the United States. The global company opened a plant in Banks County, Georgia, in November 2018, and the nutrition division has additional plants in South Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon and New Jersey.
Parisot said products from the Georgia facility would complement products from ADF’s two chicken plants.
The purchase of Diana five years ago may provide some insight on the future of ADF.
“I think Diana’s acquisition is a very good inspiration for the exercise for what we now have to do,” he said. “The idea was really to keep people and to leverage all the capabilities inside the company.”
Parisot said people built the success of ADF/IDF, and expects the same people would do likewise for the new company.
“Right now, it’s business as usual,” Herr said in an emailed statement. “We have started to identify leaders of work teams that will collaborate once closing is finalized to identify best practices and potential synergies.”
Parisot said ADF officials sought out a buyer.
“We were aware four months ago and we were contacted by ADF/IDF,” he said.
The ADF sale, once closed, would be one of the biggest deals for a Springfield-based company.
First National Corp. (Nasdaq: SFNC) purchased Liberty Bancshares Inc. for $206.9 million in May 2014.
In 2008, Springfield based-McQueary Brothers Drug Co. sold for $190 million to McKesson Corp. (NYSE: MCK) and Banta Foods sold to La Crosse, Wisconsin-based Reinhart FoodService LLC for undisclosed terms, with Banta reporting revenue of $197.6 million at the time of the sale.
Also in 2008, to the west of Springfield, Carthage-based Leggett & Platt Inc. (NYSE: LEG) sold its aluminum products division for more than $325 million to Kenner & Co., according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
In Joplin, Empire District Electric Co. sold to Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. (NYSE: AQN) for $2.4 billion in January 2017, according to past SBJ reporting. Another former Joplin company, Contract Freighters Inc., sold to Con-way Inc. in July 2007 for $750 million.
The Darr Family Foundation, which was established in 2002, will continue to operate post closing, said company spokeswomen Chantel Gebhard.
Parisot said the expected synergies created between ADF, Diana and Symrise’s flavor division would be important.
“We share the same DNA,” he said.
Diana and ADF have previously worked together, Parisot said.
He said the companies were partners from 1985-2001, on a joint venture with ADF and Darr for chicken products. Hellweg said via email that IDF and Diana were former partners.
“We kept some contacts,” Parisot said. “The memory of people is very positive from both sides.”
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