Heinz shareholders OK $28B sale to Buffet, 3G Capital

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PITTSBURGH —

Shareholders approved a $28 billion acquisition of Pittsburgh ketchup maker H.J. Heinz Co. on Tuesday morning at a special meeting in Manhattan.

A majority the 320 million outstanding shares were cast in favor of the deal, in which stockholders will be paid $72.50 a share by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital.

Berkshire and 3G are paying $28 billion for Heinz, including $5 billion in debt, in one of the biggest deals ever in the global food industry.

With shareholder approval secured, the parties are expected to move quickly to finalize the deal, which could come as soon as July 1.

Heinz traditionally holds an annual meeting in Pittsburgh that's attended by hundreds of shareholders, and includes presentations on the company's performance by executives. With only the vote to consider, Heinz held this special shareholder meeting in the Manhattan offices of law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP.

Most of the voting was done by proxy, with only a few shareholders showing up in person to cast their vote and observe the proceeding. Heinz and 3G Capital officials declined to be interviewed following the vote.

The voting had been threatened by a lawsuit in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, in which a group of shareholders alleged Heinz was being sold too cheaply. Judge Christine Ward dismissed the lawsuit at a hearing Monday.

Berkshire is expected to be a passive owner, with 3G Capital taking the lead in managing Heinz. 3G, which also owns fast-food chain Burger King, has a history of shaking up management and cutting costs at companies it acquires.

The firm already has announced that long-time Heinz CEO William Johnson will be replaced by Bernardo Hees, a 3G partner and CEO of Burger King, after the deal closes.

3G officials have pledged to keep Heinz's headquarters in Pittsburgh and have said they want to use the company as a platform for growing around the world.

But in the near term, the investors will need to focus on reducing $14 billion in debt that Heinz will accumulate as part of the deal, which could lead to cost-cutting.

 

This article was written by Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE.