Lindt & Sprüngli Buying Russell Stover

Deal brings Lindt, Ghirardelli, Russell Stover, Whitman's brands under one roof

Lindt Russell Stover Whitman's (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores / Candy)

KILCHBERG, Switzerland & KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Lindt & Sprüngli Group, manufacturer of premium chocolate worldwide, has reached an agreement to acquire Russell Stover Candies Inc., Kansas City, Mo.

Russell Stover was founded in 1923 in Denver and soon focused on the manufacture of gift pralines. In 1993, Russell Stover acquired the Whitman's brand, which was founded in 1842 and is one of the country's oldest names in chocolate. Today, Russell Stover/Whitman's is a leading manufacturer of pralines and seasonal candies in North America. It makes chocolate products at four production sites.

This biggest and most important strategic acquisition in the company's history will give Lindt & Sprüngli an established presence throughout the United States with its Lindt, Ghirardelli, Russell Stover and Whitman's brands. The addition of the Russell Stover and Whitman's brands perfectly complements Lindt & Sprüngli's existing chocolate portfolio and will make the company the No. 3 North American chocolate manufacturer.

"This biggest and most important strategic acquisition to date in Lindt & Sprüngli's history is a unique opportunity for us to expand our North American chocolate business and will greatly enhance the group's status in the world's biggest overall chocolate marketplace," said Ernst Tanner, chairman of the Lindt & Sprüngli board of directors and group CEO.

The Lindt & Sprüngli Group will now expand its already strong and dynamic U.S. chocolate portfolio with the addition of a variety of products from Russell Stover/Whitman's, including gift pralines, chocolates for Valentine's Day, Easter and Christmas, as well as sugar-free chocolates.

As an increasingly important strategic and growth-oriented partner, Lindt & Sprüngli will also greatly strengthen its relationship with the retail trade.

With about 2,700 employees, the Russell Stover Group reports annual sales of approximately $500 million. Its headquarters has been in Kansas City for more than 80 years. The company operates four chocolate factories: two in Kansas, one in Texas and one in Colorado.

In addition, the company runs a chain of 35 proprietary retail outlets, mostly in the central United States.

The Lindt & Sprüngli acquisition of Russell Stover Candies Inc. is "a perfect strategic fit with great potential for the future in the dynamic and growing chocolate business" said Thomas S. Ward, president, CEO and co-owner of Russell Stover. "Maintaining the headquarters of Russell Stover in Kansas City and ongoing improvements of the existing production sites are a clear commitment to continuity and local manufacturing."

Lindt & Sprüngli is financing the acquisition through net cash resources and bank loans and expects the transaction to make a strong positive contribution to the earnings per share from 2015 onwards. It did not disclose the purchase price and other contractual details.

The acquisition of Russell Stover/Whitman's signals Lindt & Sprüngli's intention to improve its market position in North America and further enhances the significant contribution which it already makes to the dynamic growth of the premium chocolate segment, the company said.

As a global leader in the premium chocolate sector, Kilchberg, Switzerland-based Lindt & Sprüngli has a longstanding tradition of almost 170 years, with origins in Zurich, Switzerland.