The third-largest chocolate maker in the US, Russell Stover Candies, could net the controlling family more than $1 billion if they decide to sell the business

FAMILY BEHIND US CHOCOLATE GIANT CONSIDER SALE

ARTICLE | 25 FEBRUARY, 2014 09:45 AM | BY TESS DE LA MARE

The third-largest chocolate maker in the US, Russell Stover Candies, could net the controlling family more than $1 billion if they decide to sell the business.

The second-generation of the Ward family are mulling giving up the Missouri-based manufacturer of boxed chocolates, and have appointed investment bank Goldman Sachs to assess their options.

Co-presidents Tom, 57, and Scott Ward, 56, currently head the firm, having taken over from their father Louis in 1993, who himself purchased the company in 1960.

The business is still 100% family owned, but although both Tom and Scott have grown up children, no one from the third generation works at Russell Stover.

Robbie Vorhaus, a company spokesman, said: “There’s no sale imminent, [the Wards] are evaluating the current value of the business as perceived by the market.”

He said that the family was exploring a sale as a possible strategy to grow the business but was unable to comment on whether the family would consider listing the company.

Russell Stover does not report its revenues, but the figure is rumoured to be in excess of $600 million, and Goldman Sachs estimate the company could sell for as much as $1.3 billion.

When asked how a sale of the business might affect Kansas City, Lee Bolman, chair in leadership at the Bloch School of Management, University of Missouri, said: “It’s always good to have the headquarters of a successful business in town, so Russell Stover has an impact on the economy, but they’re not a dominant presence.”

He added the company was only headquartered in the city, and that its manufacturing and distribution facilities were scattered throughout the US, so if the headquarters were to be moved it would only mean the loss of between 200 and 250 jobs and would only have a modest impact on the economy.

Russell Stover started life as “Mrs. Stover’s Bungalow Candies,” founded by Russell and Clara Stover in the kitchen of their home in Denver, Colorado – they went on to open one of their first factories in Kansas City, Missouri.

After the death of her husband in 1954, Clara Stover ran the company until it was sold to the Wards.

Over the last 54 years the ward family have expanded internationally and bought subsidiary chocolate makers Whitman’s and Pangburn’s.

It is currently the number one manufacturer of boxed chocolate in the US, and the third-largest chocolate producer behind Hershey’s and third-generation family business Mars.

 

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Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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