Goldman Sachs unit, Vestar near $1.1 bln deal for Hearthside Food — Reuters

The private equity arm of Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) and Vestar Capital Partners are nearing a deal to buy Hearthside Food Solutions LLC for more than $1.1 billion, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The consortium of Goldman Sachs and Vestar is in the final stage of negotiating an agreement with Hearthside’s private equity owner, Wind Point Partners, and is working toward an announcement in the coming days, the people said.

The buyout groups emerged as the winning bidder for the largest U.S. food contract manufacturer, following an auction that also attracted bids from BC Partners LLC and Oak Hill Capital Partners, the people said.

The sources asked not to be identified because the deal was not yet public. Representatives for Hearthside, Goldman Sachs, Vestar, Wind Point Partners, BC Partners and Oak Hill Capital did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Wind Point had asked Barclays Plc to run an auction for Hearthside, hoping to fetch more than $1 billion, Reuters reported in October.

Hearthside produces baked foods and snacks out of 20 manufacturing facilities in eight U.S. states for the world’s premier food companies, employing more than 7,500 full-time workers, according to its website.

The company, based in Downers Grove, Illinois, was created in 2009 by Wind Point and Rich Scalise, a former Ralcorp Frozen Bakery Products president and veteran of ConAgra Foods Inc (CAG.N). Scalise now serves as Hearthside’s chairman and chief executive officer.

Last year, Hearthside agreed to sell Golden Temple, its ready-to-eat cereals and granola-making business, to Post Holdings Inc (POST.N) for $158 million in cash.

(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis and Soyoung Kim in New York, additional reporting by Olivia Oran)