David H. Murdock and international fruit and vegetable giant Dole Food Company announced today that they have signed a definitive merger agreement that allows Murdock to acquire the approximately 76% of Dole’s outstanding common stock that he and his family do not own for US$33.50 per share in cash.

The per-share consideration places the total enterprise value of Dole, which includes the assumption of debt, at approximately $2.5bn.

Murdock, who is chairman of Dole, has been trying to buy the remaining shares in order to take the company private since September. The transaction was unanimously approved by the board of directors of Dole, with Murdock abstaining, following the unanimous recommendation of a special committee of outside directors of Dole that was formed on 24 September 2002 to respond to Murdock’s original proposal of $29.50 per share, in cash.