Switzerland’s Lindt & Spruengli has acquired Kansas City-based Russell Stover in a deal that will make it the third-largest chocolate maker in North America, behind Hershey and Mars, which own more than half the market. The deal is estimated at $1.5 billion; however, the exact acquisition price was not disclosed.
Russell Stover was founded in 1923 in Denver, CO, by Russell and Clara Stover, who originally called their product Mrs. Stover’s Bungalow Candies. The Louis Ward family, of Kansas City, MO, purchased the company in 1960 for $7.5 million. Russell Stover operates four chocolate factories in the U.S., plus a chain of 35 specialty retail outlets. Its products can also be found at more than 70,000 drugstores, card and gift shops, grocery outlets and department stores. The company reported sales of $655 million last year. It employs about 2,700 people. Russell Stover will maintain its headquarters in Kansas City.
Lindt, founded in 1845, is the world’s largest producer of premium chocolate. It reported revenue of 2.88 billion Swiss francs, or about $3.2 billion in 2013. The company employs about 9,000 people. The purchase of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company in 1998 demonstrates its ability to integrate a U.S. company, and may have played an important part in the Ward family’s decision.
This is the largest acquisition in Lindt’s history. Share of Lindt’s parent company, Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Spruengli AG are up nearly 3% since the announcement.