Former VA owner buys meat-packing plant |

Former VA owner buys meat-packing plant

Bill Jackson

Gillett, former owner of the ski resorts at Vail and Beaver Creek, along with Hick, Muse, Tate & Furst Inc. of Dallas, purchased ConAgra Beef Co. of Greeley on Tuesday for $1.4 billion.”We believe that as a stand-alone enterprise, with an outstanding and entrepreneurial management team headed by John Simons, and with the strategic and financial support of HMTF, one of the most experienced and successful food industry investors, this new enterprise has a great future,” said Gillett, adding that ConAgra Beef has made significant process in the past three years in enhancing its operations and financial performance.The new company will remain in Greeley and be headquartered at ConAgra Beef’s building at Promontory, but will be renamed Swift & Co.John Simons, the current president and chief executive officer of ConAgra Beef, will lead management of the new company. All operating management will remain in place under the new company.Under the arrangement, ConAgra Foods of Omaha, Neb., will own a minority 46 percent stake in the new company.Booth Creek Management Corp. is based in Vail and has extensive interests and experience in food processing, distribution and marketing in the United States and Canada. In addition, it has significant investments and experience in the transportation, resort, and leisure industries. Gillett, meanwhile, is also owner of the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League.Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst was formed in 1989 and has completed or currently has pending more than 400 transactions with a total value of about $50 billion. Headquartered in Dallas, the firm also has offices in London, New York and Buenos Aires.Wall Street analysts have been encouraging ConAgra to rid itself of the Greeley operation for some time. And Dick Monfort, whose family started what became ConAgra Beef, said Tuesday night the deal is probably a “win-win” for everyone involved.The new company also acquires ConAgra Foods’ Australia Meat Holdings, the leading Australian beef processor, and all of ConAgra’s cattle feeding operations. HMTF will control the new company with Gillett’s company providing support and holding a minority stake.Monfort said Gillett has been involved in the meat industry for many years and at one time was putting together a group in an attempt to buy Iowa Beef.”That’s probably twice the size of ConAgra Beef, so he’s getting in at a lower cost. I think he feels there’s a great opportunity for case ready beef products, and he wants to be in place to capitalize on that,” Monfort said.Case ready beef can be prepared in a matter of a few minutes after purchased from a grocery store.John Muse, a partner in the Dallas company, and Gillett said they decided on the new name Swift & Co. because of its history. Swift was incorporated in 1875 and became a part of ConAgra less than a year after Monfort Inc. was acquired in 1987.

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