US food and beverage group Whole Earth Brands is the subject of a takeover bid from its largest investor Sir Martin Franklin.

The British-born entrepreneur already owns more than 21% of the company, which has a portfolio of products encompassing nut butters, Wholesome honey and Candarel sweetener. Yesterday, he announced his proposal to take full control of the business in a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing.

Franklin’s bid of $4 a share would value Whole Earth Brands at about $169m, or roughly $593m including debt, data compiled by Bloomberg showed. Employees will remain in their positions and the company will continue to operate locally in Milwaukee.

Nasdaq-listed Whole Earth Brands’ share price rose 25% yesterday (26 June) to close at $3.90.

In his proposal, Franklin, who set up the now-listed frozen-foods business Nomad Foods in 2014, said he wants to combine Whole Earth Brands with another consumer company he controls, charcoal seller Royal Oak Enterprises.

Florida-based Franklin, who runs family investment office Mariposa Capital, said in his SEC filing that it was “a non-binding proposal to Mr. Irwin Simon, the executive chairman of the board of directors of the issuer [Whole Earth], pursuant to which Sababa [Holdings, a Franklin vehicle] or one of its affiliates, would be willing to enter into a transaction to acquire the issuer”.

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Whole Earth Brands, which went public in 2020, named Franklin’s son Michael Franklin as its interim CEO at the end of last year after the incumbent Albert Manzone stepped down from the role.

In April, it shuffled its executive pack further. Amongst the new arrivals was Bernardo Fiaux, former CFO of the meals, condiments and foodservice division of Kraft Heinz in North America, who became Whole Earth Brands’ new finance chief, replacing Duane Portwood in the CFO role.

The Chicago-based company also announced Nigel Willerton, the founder of Wholesome Sweeteners, as president and COO of branded CPG in North America.

Michael Franklin said at the time: “The actions that we announced today are the product of several months of engagement across all facets of our business. They are aimed at simplifying our structure and fostering teamwork and collaboration at all levels. Streamlining our operations and enhancing cross-functional activities are key corporate priorities as we strive to enhance our productivity and generate sustainable long-term growth.”

At the time, the company also reaffirmed its outlook for full-year 2023. It is predicting revenues of $550m to $565m and adjusted EBITDA of $76m to $78m.

Just Food has asked Whole Earth Brands for its reaction to Franklin’s takeover bid, outside of US office hours.