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Campbell nears deal to sell Bolthouse Farms to former executive, capping dalliance in the fresh food aisle

Key Points
  • Campbell is in advanced talks to sell Bolthouse Farms to an investor group led by former its former CEO Jeffrey Dunn, for roughly $500 million, a person familiar with the talks tells CNBC.
  • Campbell paid $1.55 billion for Bolthouse Farms in 2012.
  • The deal is pending board approval, which could come as soon as this week, the person said.
Campbell Soup Co. soup cans and Bolthouse Farms juices are arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Campbell Soup is nearing a deal to sell Bolthouse Farms to its former CEO for roughly half of what it paid for the carrot and juice company seven years ago, a person familiar tells CNBC.

The soup company is in advanced talks to sell Bolthouse Farms to an investor group led by former CEO, Jeffrey Dunn, for roughly $500 million, the person said. The deal is pending board approval, which could come as soon as this week, the person added.

Campbell paid $1.55 billion for Bolthouse Farms in 2012, when the brand had more than $100 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. It is now losing money, CNBC has reported.

Should the deal be consummated, it would mark the end to a strategy heralded by former CEO Denise Morrison. Morrison, who resigned abruptly last year, had pushed the soup company to take cash flow from its profitable but slowing soup business and invest it into more on-trend areas of the grocery store like fresh food.

The fresh food industry, though, proved to be a poor fit for Campbell. The industry requires expertise in agriculture that Campbell lacked. It is difficult as a public company to manage a fresh food business, which is subject to the whims of the weather, contrary to the predictability public investors demand. An ill-timed California drought further exacerbated Campbell's challenges with Bolthouse.

Campbell earlier this year sold its Garden Fresh Gourmet salsa business to an affiliate of hummus and dip company Fountain of Health USA for an undisclosed amount. It bought the brand for $231 million in 2015.

Campbell is selling its fresh food business, along with its international snack brands, to help pay down debt. The company more than tripled its debt load to help finance its $6.1 billion acquisition of snack business Snyder's-Lance earlier this year.

The Wall Street Journal first reported earlier Thursday the advanced talks. The person requested anonymity because the information is confidential. A spokesperson for Campbell said the company does not comment on rumor or speculation. Dunn didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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