Recapitalization, management shift at Wenner
July 18, 2011
by Josh Sosland
BAYPORT, N.Y. — Frontenac Co., a private equity firm based in Chicago, has announced a recapitalization of Wenner Bread Products, Inc., a family-owned baking company based in Bayport on Long Island. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
In addition, Frontenac said Jeffrey W. Montie, a former president of Kellogg Co., has been named chief executive officer of Wenner. Mr. Montie is an executive partner at Frontenac.
Partnering with Frontenac in the Wenner investment is Lake Pacific Partners, another Chicago-based private equity firm.
Wenner bakes nearly 500 varieties of frozen dough, par-baked and fully-baked bread and rolls and supplies 20,000 in-store bakeries and food service operators across the country. Frontenac said the Wenner family will remain involved in operating the business. The company operates a baking facility with 150,000 square feet of production and warehouse space and employs 400.
“We are very excited to have an outstanding executive like Jeff join our growing family business,” said Richard Wenner, president of Wenner Bread Products. “After meeting Jeff and the Frontenac team, we knew this was a good fit for us. We were seeking a trustworthy steward to help take our business to the next level, and a long-term capital partner to provide some liquidity while allowing us to retain significant ownership. We were drawn to Frontenac’s patient capital approach, strategy of partnering with experienced executives, and history of growing the companies in their portfolio.”
Mr. Montie spent 21 years at Kellogg and was president of the company’s North America and International divisions.
“I am thrilled to be taking on such an exciting opportunity as working with the Wenner family, the employees of Wenner Bread and Frontenac to help accelerate business growth,” Mr. Montie said. ”Frontenac’s forte is partnering with owner-operated businesses and investing in Wenner Bread made complete sense given the great history and track record of this family business and the many significant opportunities for future growth.”
Wenner was established in 1956 by William and Mary Jane Wenner as a pastry shop in Queens. Additional shops were added in the years that followed. The company opened its first wholesale baking plant several years later in Deer Park, N.Y.
“Predicting that fresh hot bakeries located inside full service grocery stores would be the wave of the future, the family dedicated themselves to the development of fool-proof, labor-saving formulations,” Wenner Bread said in a company history. “In 1978, they introduced frozen dough challah and egg twist rolls, and they've never looked back.”
Frontenac management suggested growth opportunities would be explored at Wenner both through organic expansion and acquisitions.
“We believe the market is ripe to further expand their robust product offerings while broadening the geographic footprint,” said Walter Florence, managing director of Frontenac.
Wenner is the only food company within Frontenac’s portfolio of investments. Earlier, the company had investments in Health Valley Foods, Chipotle and Alfalfa’s Market.
The firm’s focus is on mid-sized family- and operator-owned businesses and says its matching of seasoned, successful executives with its portfolio (which it calls CEO1ST partners) marks its point of difference from other private equity firms.
“We fund and support our CEO1ST partners to acquire and grow companies,” Frontenac said. “Unlike investment firms whose focus is ‘landing the deal,’ we identify executives with outstanding industry knowledge and past performance, and match them with high-potential companies.”
Frontenac said William Voss, founder of Lake Pacific and former president and c.e.o. of Health Valley Foods, will serve on the Wenner board. Mr. Voss formerly was president and chief operating officer of Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. and president and c.e.o. of McCain Foods.
Lake Pacific’s portfolio of investments predominantly is food based. Its current roster of companies includes Cal Pacific Specialty Foods, a processor of fruit-based ingredients, and Maxi, a Canadian processor of chicken products. Earlier holdings included Breadshop Natural Foods, Health Valley Co. and Casbah Sahara Natural Foods.