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Campbell could sell fresh division to former Bolthouse CEO

Campbell Soup Co. is reportedly in talks to sell its fresh-foods business — including Bolthouse Farms — to investors led by Jeff Dunn, Bolthouse’s former chief executive officer and former president of Campbell Fresh.camp

According to the Wall Street Journal, Dunn helped with the 2012 sale of Bolthouse to Campbell for $1.55 billion.

Citing people familiar with the business, WSJ said the Campbell Fresh division could sell for between $500 million and $700 million.

In late August the company said it was going to explore the sale of its fresh and international businesses; fiscal 2018 net sales of the two totaled approximately $2.1 billion.

At that time Keith McLoughlin, Campbell’s interim president and CEO said, “Campbell’s board of directors considered a full slate of strategic options, including optimizing the portfolio, divesting businesses, splitting the company, and pursuing a sale. The board concluded that, at this time, the best path forward to drive shareholder value is to focus the company on two core businesses [Campbell Snacks and Campbell Meals and Beverages] in the North American market with a proven consumer packaged goods business model. Importantly, the board remains open and committed to evaluating all strategic options to enhance value in the future."

In September Third Point announced plans to replace Campbell’s entire board, saying, "The disappointing outcome of Campbell’s recent 'strategic review' process provides further evidence that this board is unable or unwilling to take the bold action needed to address the current crisis and does not understand the depth of the company’s problems. Since 2016 alone, this board has overseen over $7 billion of value destruction. Years of poorly conceived and executed acquisitions have over-levered the balance sheet, providing a limited range of options to remedy the problems Campbell confronts today. The board’s shocking failure to have a CEO succession plan in place following Denise Morrison’s sudden exit is a scathing indictment of its inability to conduct one of any board of directors’ most essential duties — to secure capable, continuous leadership for the company."

According to WSJ, the vote will take place at Campbell’s annual shareholder meeting Nov. 29.