New York investors agree to buy large Florida farming company


MIAMI, Oct 18 (Reuters) - A majority interest in one of thelargest private landowners in Florida, agribusiness companyAlico Inc, is being sold for $138 million to a group ofNew York private investors.

Based in Fort Myers, Alico manages about 130,000 acres incentral and south Florida and is a leading citrus grower with11,000 acres under production, as well as sugar cane, and cattleranching.

Under the deal announced on Friday, 734 Agriculture, aprivate investment company owned and controlled by Remy W.Trafelet and George R. Brokaw, in partnership with Arlon Group,a global food and agriculture investment firm founded byContinental Grain Company, will acquire about 50.5 percent ofAlico's outstanding voting stock from Atlantic Blue Group, afamily owned holding company, the companies announced in a jointpress release.

The all cash transaction values the majority stake in Alicoat $37 per share, and is due to close in the next 30 to 45 days.

Alico stock closed at $38.43 on Friday, down almost 11 percent.

The other 48.5 percent of stock is held by a mix of mutualfunds and private equity groups.

Atlantic Blue Group is part of the estate of the late citrusbaron Ben Hill Griffin Jr. who's heirs include former FloridaSecretary of State Katherine Harris, famous for presiding overthe notorious Nov. 2000 election recount.

The family's decision to sell Atlantic Blue was made for taxreasons, according to Ray Rodriguez, the chairman of Alico'sboard, told Reuters.

The company's focus will remain farming and the new CEO willbe Clay Wilson an experienced Florida citrus grower.

"As far as I know the vision of the new investors is verymuch the same as Alico has had. I don't foresee any change,"said Rodriguez.

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