Hicks Acquisition Company I, Inc., a Dallas-based special purpose acquisition company ("SPAC") founded and headed by Thomas O. Hicks, announced that it has reached an agreement in principle-subject to execution of a definitive agreement, which is expected to be finalized in the next few days-pursuant to which Graham Packaging Holdings Co. will go public through a transaction with Hicks Acquisition in partnership with The Blackstone Group and the Graham Group. The transaction, valued at approximately $3.2 billion, is believed to be the largest ever between a SPAC and an industrial company.
Following completion of the transaction, the combined enterprise will be renamed Graham Packaging Company and will apply for listing on the New York Stock Exchange. Blackstone has agreed it will maintain the largest ownership stake for at least two years as it continues to play an important role in guiding the Company strategically and operationally.
Founded in 1972 and based in York, Pennsylvania, Graham Packaging, with 2007 net sales of approximately $2.5 billion, is a global technology and innovation leader in value-added blow-molded rigid plastic containers for the branded food and beverage, household, personal care/specialty and automotive lubricant industries.
Approximately 90 percent of the Company's sales are in product categories in which it holds the number-one market position. Reflecting the importance to its customers of high levels of manufacturing expertise and technological innovation, the Company estimates that 80 percent of its products make use of proprietary Graham Packaging technology.
Hicks, founder and Chairman of Hicks Acquisition, said: - After considering more than a hundred possible transactions, we're tremendously pleased to have identified Graham Packaging as the right transaction for Hicks Acquisition, and to be partnering with Blackstone, whose senior partners I have had close business relationships with for many years, and the other Current Graham Equity Holders.
Under the leadership since December 2006 of a new management team headed by Chairman and CEO Warren Knowlton and COO/CFO Mark Burgess, Graham Packaging has burnished its already-outstanding reputation as the technology and innovation leader in its industry's high-value-added segment and has significantly improved its operational and financial performance. We look forward to completing the transaction and supporting the management team as they continue to create value for Graham Packaging's customers, continue to build a solid platform for profitable growth, and work to realize Graham Packaging's full operational, financial and investment potential.
Chinh Chu, a Graham Packaging board member and a Senior Managing Director at Blackstone, added: - Blackstone is pleased to partner with Tom Hicks and management for this next chapter of Graham Packaging as a public company.
Warren Knowlton, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Graham Packaging,explained: - We look forward to partnering with Tom Hicks and Blackstone, both of whom have long track records of value creation.
Graham Packaging has made significant progress since December 2006. With the support of our new ownership group and our strong free cash flow from operations, we will continue to invest in and grow our business, pay down debt, accelerate our earnings growth, and meet the needs and expectations of our employees, customers, suppliers and stockholders.
Graham Packaging is a market leader in value-added custom plastic containers, producing more than 20 billion container units annually at 83 manufacturing plants in North America, Europe and South America. It is the leading supplier of plastic containers for hot-fill juice and juice drinks, sports drinks, drinkable yogurt and smoothies, nutritional supplements, wide-mouth food, condiments, beer, liquid laundry detergent and motor oil.
Graham Packaging is sold