June 25, 2018 / 8:03 PM / 2 years ago

Exclusive: Dealmaker Chu, Pinnacle chairman partner to buy consumer firms: sources

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Chinh Chu, a former Blackstone Group (BX.N) dealmaker, has partnered with Pinnacle Foods PF.N Chairman Roger Deromedi for a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) focused on buying consumer companies, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

Chu and Deromedi, along with ex-Blackstone dealmaker Jason Giordano, have hired investment banks for the initial public offering (IPO) of the SPAC, expected later this year, one of the people said, requesting anonymity to speak about the process.

A SPAC uses proceeds from its IPO, together with borrowed funds, to acquire companies that are usually privately held. Investors in the IPO do not know in advance which company a SPAC will buy, although many outline in advance the sectors they want to be active in.

The move comes as consumer companies look to diversify their offerings through acquisitions as shoppers continue to turn away from a whole range of once-successful megabrands ranging from sugary soda drinks to expensive cosmetics. Certain niches of the consumer industry such as personal care and healthy foods have experienced explosive growth in recent years.

Last year, the former CEO of Starwood Hotels, Steve Heyer, raised $300 million for Haymaker Acquisition Corp, to also look at deals in consumer-related products and services.

The size of the SPAC has yet to be decided, although one of the sources said it could raise around $500 million.

A Pinnacle Foods spokeswoman declined to comment. Representatives for Chu did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while Giordano did not immediately respond to a LinkedIn message seeking comment.

Chu, who fled his native Vietnam with his family in 1975 at the age of 8, worked on some of Blackstone’s biggest and most successful leveraged buyouts during his 25-year career.

This is his second effort at a SPAC. Following his departure from Blackstone in 2015, Chu partnered with insurance industry veteran William Foley to raise $600 million in his first SPAC, CF Corp.

A year later, CF Corp announced it would purchase U.S. annuities and life insurer Fidelity & Guaranty Life in a deal worth around $1.84 billion that was backed by an investor group including Blackstone and Fidelity National Financial Inc (FNF.N).

Giordano, who left Blackstone last year according to his LinkedIn profile, worked on the New York-based private equity firm’s 2007 acquisition of Pinnacle Foods.

Deromedi, who has served on Pinnacle’s board since 2007 and been chairman since March 2016, spent two years between July 2013 and July 2015 as an independent adviser to Blackstone on the consumer goods sector, according to Pinnacle’s website.

Pinnacle, which owns Birds Eye frozen foods and Mrs. Butterworth’s syrups, has been exploring a deal of its own. It has restarted talks about potentially selling itself to its larger peer Conagra Brands Inc (CAG.N), Reuters has reported.

Reporting by David French and Joshua Franklin in New York; Additional reporting by Greg Roumeliotis and Harry Brumpton; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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