Illinois company buys Viking Range for $380M

GREENWOOD — Food service equipment maker Middleby Corp. has bought Mississippi-based oven and kitchen appliance maker Viking Range Corp. for $380 million.

Viking Range is based in Greenwood, and makes products for use in residential cooking. Middleby said Viking Range has $200 million in annual sales. Over the last 12 months Middleby’s revenue has grown 21 percent to $990 million.

Fred Carl Jr., Viking’s founder and CEO, tells the Greenwood Commonwealth the manufacturer of upscale kitchen appliances will stay in Greenwood. He expects few changes resulting from the new ownership other than future growth in the city of its birth.

“I am truly happy about this,” Carl said. “It’s going to be good for Viking, good for Viking employees and good for Greenwood. That was very important to me.”

Carl, 64, will remain the company’s president and chief executive officer for “probably several more years,” he said.

In addition to Viking’s manufacturing operation, the company’s hospitality subsidiaries — including its cooking schools and The Alluvian hotel — are included in the sale to Middleby.

Carl said Viking’s 1,000 employees were notified of the sale in an email Monday.

Middleby, based in Elgin, Ill., says the acquisition will help it expand in the residential cooking market. It also plans to introduce Viking Range’s products in emerging markets.

Selim A. Bassoul, Middleby’s chairman and CEO, said in a press release that plans are to maintain Viking’s operations in Greenwood.

“It is our intent to help Fred and his team to continue to grow Viking right there in Mississippi where it’s been since he started the company,” Bassoul said.

Viking celebrated its 25th year of production in 2012.

All of Viking’s past shareholders were individuals who were affiliated with either Stephens Inc. or The Stephens Group of Little Rock, Ark., two separate Stephens family firms, or were executives of Viking. In addition to founder Fred Carl Jr., other Viking executives who were shareholders were longtime executives Ron Ussery and Brian Waldrop. In addition, Brenda Durden, the widow of longtime Viking executive, Liston Durden, was also a Viking shareholder.

The company experienced 15 years of dramatic growth, expanding its product line, its manufacturing operation in Greenwood and its worldwide distribution.

Carl said that Viking had been approached on a regular basis over the years by potential suitors, including several residential appliance makers, private equity firms and private investors. Middleby itself had unsuccessfully approached Viking several years ago.

The two companies, though, stayed in touch, and Carl said that earlier this year Middleby made another pitch. This time Carl and his partners were interested.

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