Family Puts Company on Auction Block
By Dick Lehnert, June 2005
The family-owned carrot empire, William Bolthouse Farms Inc. of Bakersfield, Calif., has “put itself up for auction” and is listed on the Internet Web site Thedeal.com, which valued the enterprise at more than $700 million.
The fourth-generation farm reportedly will be sold because some family members want to sell their shares. Bolthouse Farms did not return phone calls or e-mail messages, so details could not be verified.
Nor is it known how many family members have a financial interest. William J. Bolthouse, who invented Shortcut carrots in 1992 and revolutionized the industry, retired from company management in 2002. He has two sisters and four children.
His parents, William and Helen Bolthouse – who made major decisions, including the relocation to Bakersfield that allowed year-round planting, harvesting and packing of fresh carrots – both died in 2004. They were survived by their son and two daughters, 10 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren.
William J. has three children, including Lisa Radandt, the wife of Bolthouse Farms President Andre Radandt.
The sale was announced in a press release sent to The Bakersfield Californian. The number of family members wishing to sell and their shares in the company were not disclosed, but the sale could involve all or part of the company.
The company’s roots are in Grant, Mich. William Herman Bolthouse took over a small muck-soil vegetable farm from his parents in 1938. The family added land and built a reputation for quality carrot production.
In 1973, Bolthouse moved to Bakersfield to build another carrot packing plant, allowing for year-round production. He retired in 1985, turning the company over to his son William J. Besides the Shortcut carrots, he began production and sale of carrot juice and started a Japanese subsidiary to market it in Japan.
The news release the company provided to The Californian said Bolthouse farms “will continue under the direction of its current management team.” It said Bolthouse was working with Goldman, Sachs and Co. and that the company, which grows 25,000 acres of carrots, has annual revenues of around $400 million to $500 million. The firm employs about 2,500 people.
TheDeal.com listed Dole Food Co., Del Monte Foods Co. and Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. as likely Bolthouse bidders.
The Bolthouse Farms story is told on its Web site, www.Bolthousefarms.com.
In the 1930s, the company grew carrots, celery, spinach and onions for sale to local canneries, including companies like Gerber Products, The Campbell Soup Company and H.J. Heinz. By 1950, Bolthouse Farms was a leading supplier of carrots to Midwest processors.
In 1959, William Bolthouse built a packing facility, putting carrots in cellophane and marketing them to the newly emerging chain stores and supermarkets.
The chain stores relied on the quality of Bolthouse carrots, the Web site said, but consumers wanted fresh carrots year round – and that led to the move to California.
In 1990, William J. Bolthouse introduced Shortcuts, carrots cut and peeled and ready-to-eat. Demand soared and additional plants were added in 1994 and 1999. The juice business was fueled by Japanese demand. The company added other juices and juice mixtures. It also packs organically produced carrots under the Earthbound Farm label.
Bolthouse ships more than 35,000 tons of carrot products each month. It is one of the world’s largest carrot suppliers. The company and its major competitor, Grimmway Farms, reportedly account for 85 percent of U.S. carrot production.