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OpenGate Capital To Buy Wisconsin Dairy From Dean Foods

By Beina Xu Of DOW JONES LBO WIRE Private equity firm OpenGate Capital reached a deal to buy a Waukesha, Wis.-based dairy processing plant and related assets from Dean Foods Co., which sold the business in an antitrust settlement with the Department of Justice. OpenGate will acquire the Golden Guernsey and La Vaca Bonita brands, which provide milk, cheese and other dairy products in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. The plant produced roughly $100 million in sales, according to Andrew Nikou, founder of OpenGate. Dean Foods declined to comment. The portfolio of Los Angeles-based OpenGate includes TV Guide Magazine, European modeling and talent agency Models1 and automotive products company Gabriel Ride Control Products. In April 2009, Dean acquired Foremost Farms USA Cooperative's consumer products division, which included its dairy processing plants in Waukesha and De Pere, Wis. The Justice Department department and three state attorneys general filed a lawsuit alleging that Dean's acquisition would eliminate substantial competition between the two companies in the sale of milk, according to a DOJ press release. The lawsuit was settled at the end of March, and required Dean to divest the milk processing plant in Waukesha, Wis., and related assets. At the time, Dean said it believed the acquisition "supported competition and benefitted consumers," but said it wanted to avoid the time and expense of litigation, and sought a buyer for the Waukesha plant. OpenGate was attracted to the "well recognized brand," Nikou said, noting that the firm was required to conduct diligence within a roughly four-week time frame. The firm will look to expand the platform with ancillary dairy products and acquisitions. "For us, we're not trying to be the next Dean," Nikou said. "We'll add more discipline to a business unit that has been to some degree neglected." The deal is expected to close in the third quarter. (Dow Jones LBO Wire covers buyout and growth equity deals, as well as private-equity fund-raising and other news of interest to the private-equity community.) -By Beina Xu, Dow Jones LBO Wire; beina.xu@dowjones.com

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