Among the intriguing personalities moving into private equity in recent years, James M. Kilts is a standout for his great success in a number of settings. The former head of Kraft Foods when the business was owned by Philip Morris, Mr. Kilts later was president and chief executive officer of Nabisco Holdings, Inc. and of Gillette Co. He headed the latter company when it was acquired in 2005 by Procter & Gamble.
A year later, Mr. Kilts joined Centerview, an investment banking advisory service that sought to establish a private equity fund. Mr. Kilt’s charge was to find investment opportunities in the consumer products space in the United States, with the objective stated as allowing Centerview to “bring strategic and operational improvements and tap Mr. Kilts' experience turning around world-class branded companies such as Gillette and Nabisco.”
After four years, Centerview has made its first food company acquisition (and second investment overall), investing in Richelieu Foods, Inc., a company specializing in private label frozen pizza and pizza crust.
Centerview’s latest move may be seen as a strong, if somewhat slow in coming, affirmation of confidence in the future of grain-based foods.