- Whole Earth Brands received a $4 per share buyout offer from its largest shareholder, Martin Franklin, according to a June 25 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Franklin already owns 21% of the business. Bloomberg reported a deal at that price would value Whole Earth at about $169 million, or roughly $593 million, including debt.
- Martin Franklin said he would combine the maker of Equal, Swerve and Wholesome Sweeteners with Royal Oak Enterprises, a maker of charcoal. Franklin is the chairman of Royal Oak Enterprises. Whole Earth appointed Franklin’s son Michael as its interim CEO at the end of last year.
- In a response, Whole Earth acknowledged receiving the offer to acquire the company and said it formed a special committee of its board to review it.
Since going public following a merger with a SPAC in June 2020, Whole Earth has doubled down on sweeteners that are on-trend, purchasing Swerve, a keto-focused sugar replacement; and Wholesome Sweeteners, a maker of organic, fair-trade certified sugar, honey, agave nectar, allulose and other liquid sweeteners. But during that time, it has watched its stock price languish, making it ripe for a takeover.
Few know the company better than Martin Franklin and his son. Still, the decision to combine a manufacturer of plant-based sweeteners with a charcoal producer is a surprising pairing, an indication that Martin Franklin sees Whole Earth as undervalued and is aiming to take advantage of its depressed stock price. Whole Earth could ultimately decide to hold out for a bigger offer from Franklin, search for another buyer or continue on as a publicly traded company.
Whole Earth is just the latest small food company to face pressure to sell itself. Plant-based food maker Laird Superfood received an unsolicited offer from EF Hutton SPV I LLC to pay $3 for each share of the company last August. And kefir maker Lifeway Foods, which has been plagued by fighting among family members, has seen its CEO accused of mismanagement and urged to seek a sale by Kanen Wealth Management.