Mills Fleet Farm announces sale to investment conglomerate KKR
Mills Fleet Farm, a family-owned outdoor and home and farm supply chain store, recently agreed to sell to the New York-based KKR, one of the country’s largest investment conglomerates with holdings totaling more than $100 billion.
Terms of the deal, expected to be announced next week, were not disclosed.
After the Mills family announced the 35 stores were up for sale last fall, it was speculated the chain would fetch roughly $1 billion. Reuters reported last month that a likely price tag would be more than $1.2 billion, including debt.
Nate Taylor, a KKR executive who runs the retail businesses within KKR’s private-equity portfolio, said in a press release that while KKR has acquired majority control of the stock, the Mills family will retain a small ownership stake in the 61-year-old company.
Several Mills family members are expected to leave company management but will maintain offices and contribute in an advisory capacity.
Taylor said the company will be operated independently of KKR’s other retailers, an array of holdings that includes Toys ‘R’ Us and US Foods.
He said the immensely wealthy KKR plans to invest in a Mills Fleet Farm expansion that could transcend its four-state Upper Midwest region.
“We anticipate investing significantly in the business, adding infrastructure, stores and local jobs,” Taylor said in the statement. “(KKR would) remain committed to Mills Fleet Farm’s founding values – and those shared by KKR – of honesty, integrity, hard work, service and loyalty to our customers and partners.”
Mills Fleet Farm, which doesn’t publicly disclose sales or results, operates its stores in rural towns, including Stevens Point and Waupaca, of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North Dakota. It employs 6,500 full- and part-time workers, including about 75 at its corporate office in Brainerd. It also employs several hundred employees in merchandising and operations in Appleton.
Co-Presidents Henry Mills II and Stewart Mills Jr. – who are in their 80s and the sons of the late Stewart Mills Sr., who founded the company in 1955 – said in a statement they decided to partner with KKR in order to take Mills Fleet Farm to the next level of growth for the future.
“We took great care in our approach to finding the right partner who shared our values and would preserve the legacy the Mills family has built after serving the Midwest over the last 60 years,” the statement said. “We truly believe KKR is the best fit for our organization and also the best fit for our employees.”
Mills Fleet Farm offers national brand and private-label goods, including fishing and hunting products, auto parts, farm and pet supplies, home improvement goods, clothing and footwear, toys and food, among others.