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Berry Plastics changes hands

The plastics packaging giant that is Berry Plastics Corp. (Evansville, IN) will change hands for a third time in the last decade. The new owners, private equity groups Apollo Management and Graham Partners, will pay $2.25 billion, and plan to keep current Berry management, including CEO Ira Boots, in place. The deal is expected to close by the third quarter.

Berry currently is majority owned by Goldman Sachs Capital Partners (60% holding), with JP Morgan Partners holding a 27% stake. It was purchased from First Atlantic Capital in 2002 for $837.5 million. Berry''s current ownership announced in March they would seek "strategic alternatives to maximize shareholder value." In the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2005, Berry reported pro forma annual sales of $1.3 billion.

Berry, which injection molds, thermoforms, and extrudes closures, containers, tubes, and bottles, among other applications, boosted its 2004 sales to $814 million, following the 2003 acquisition of Landis Plastics Inc.''s five U.S. plants for $228 million, and the 2005 purchases of Kerr Group Inc. and its nine North American facilities for $445 million.

The company currently operates 23 U.S. facilities, as well as wholly owned operations and joint ventures in Mexico City; Norwich, U.K.; Milan, Italy; and Guangzhou, China.

Philadelphia-based Graham Partners is a middle-market industrial private equity firm with $850 million under management. Graham Partners'' founders are no strangers to the plastics packaging industry, with much of their early money made after selling two firms they founded-rigid packaging processor Graham Packaging Corp. and Graham Machinery Group, a manufacturer of extrusion blowmolding equipment (both York, PA). The Graham family retains a minority holding in Graham Packaging, but Chris Lawler at Graham Partners says that the separate groups have no intention of combining, merging, or making any arrangements between Berry and Graham Packaging.

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