Nomad Foods tycoons swoop for Iglo-owned Birds Eye in €2.6bn deal

 
Michael Bow
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Birds Eye is best known in the UK for its fish fingers and popular mascot Captain Birdseye

Iglo Foods, the owner of Bird’s Eye fish fingers, was sold to a US consumer foods group chaired by former City minister Lord Myners in a €2.6bn (£1.9bn) deal yesterday.

Nomad Foods, which was founded last April to launch consumer takeovers, has bought the group from London-based Permira.

UK-headquartered Iglo is Europe’s biggest frozen food company and has been owned by Permira since 2006.
The firm will retain a nine per cent stake in the business after the sale is completed.
The deal marks a landmark takeover by Nomad’s co-founders, Noam Gottesman and Martin Franklin. Gottesman is the first ‘G’ in London hedge fund GLG Partners, while Franklin is the tycoon behind the Jarden conglomerate, the owner of sandwich-toaster maker Breville.
"What people eat and how and when they eat are constantly evolving, making food one of the most resilient yet dynamic categories in the consumer sector,” Gottesman said. “Iglo Group's strong brands are clear market leaders in frozen food.”
The duo will re-brand Iglo as Nomad Foods and move its primary stock market listing from London to New York. Gottesman said the company would grow through a “prudent M&A strategy”.
Iglo chief executive Elio Leoni Sceti, who was appointed in 2013, will also leave the group at the end of June but will remain on the board of the group as non-exec. No replacement was announced.
Nomad will fund the deal with $750m private placement, equity and cash. Permira will recycle €133.5m from the sale to take the nine per cent stake.
Credit Suisse, Barclays, and UBS are all on hand to help Nomad sort out Iglo’s hefty debt pile.

A SHORT HISTORY OF FISH FINGERS

The genealogy of the fish finger, or fish sticks in the United States, can be traced to the “fish brick,” an unsuccessful product of early 20th century food-freezing technology that fish finger scholar Paul Josephson says were “packaged like blocks of ice cream.”
In 1953, however, Clarence Birdseye’s eponymous company Birds Eye unveiled its new fried and frozen fish fillets to a ripe post-war market. With freezers at home for the first time, consumers were keen to explore space-age ready-to-heat snacks. Its low-effort frozen fish fingers appealed to post-war working women, became incredibly popular and spread internationally, including to the UK.
By 1967, Captain Birdseye was embodied in the UK in commercials by the jovial, bearded sea captain played by John Hewer. With the catchphrase “only the best for the captain’s table,” he proved a highly effective advertising tactic, becoming so well-liked that when he was phased out of ad campaigns in 1971, the Times issued him an obituary. He was quickly resurrected.
Recently, though, the Captain seems to have packed away his sails. Hewer retired from the character in 1998, and in 2014 Captain Birdseye was once again shuffled out the ad campaigns, in favour of a British family. One can only imagine if he might ever sail back onto British television screens.

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