Food fight: Fleishman supports Tyson's entrance to Hillshire bidding war

SPRINGDALE, AR: FleishmanHillard is aiding Tyson Foods with communications around its proposal to buy Hillshire Brands for $6.8 billion.

SPRINGDALE, AR: FleishmanHillard is aiding Tyson Foods with communications around its proposal to buy Hillshire Brands for $6.8 billion.

Tyson is the latest contender in the bidding war for the packaged meat company.

"Communications are being coordinated by our in-house team with help from FleishmanHillard, and our key messages are outlined in [Thursday’s] news release," said Gary Mickelson, Tyson’s senior director of PR.

FleishmanHillard has been Tyson’s global AOR for integrated corporate communications since 2012. Mickelson confirmed that no other firms or corporate communications professionals have been brought on to assist the company.

Tyson’s unsolicited offer surpasses poultry producer Pilgrim’s Pride’s existing bid of $6.4 billion, proposed Tuesday. Joele Frank Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher is helping Pilgrim’s Pride push the message of the combined companies’ value to shareholders.

Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride are both working to halt Hillshire’s planned acquisition of Pinnacle Foods for $4.2 billion, which was announced earlier this month. A clause in the Pinnacle transaction allows Hillshire’s board to enter into negotiations with a takeover bid that leads to a better outcome for shareholders. 

The proposed transaction, which is backed by Tyson’s board, would provide Hillshire shareholders with an "immediate and significant" ROI in Hillshire and constitutes a "superior alternative" to the Hillshire-Pinnacle deal, said Tyson in a release issued Thursday morning.

The Tyson-Hillshire combination has a "strong strategic, financial, and operational rationale," said Donnie Smith, Tyson’s president and CEO, in the release.

The release outlined various ways the deal would benefit Tyson, such as repositioning the company as a "clear leader" in the retail sale of prepared foods, as well as providing Tyson with synergies through the combination of the companies’ sales and marketing teams, distribution and supply chain resources, and shared service functions.

Hillshire’s breakfast products would particularly benefit Tyson if the deal went through since the company has little presence in that area at the moment, the release noted.

Smith wrote in a public letter to Hillshire chief exec Sean Connolly that he would have preferred to have made the proposal privately.

"In light of current circumstances we believe that it is in the best interests of your and our shareholders to have current and accurate information about our proposal and the reasons we believe that it is a compelling opportunity for both of our companies," he wrote.

Two conference calls were conducted by Tyson’s CEO and CFO Thursday morning: one with analysts and another with business reporters.

In response, Hillshire released a statement Thursday saying it will thoroughly review Tyson’s proposal, consistent with its fiduciary duties, and in consultation with its independent financial and legal advisors.

When asked about the company’s communications strategy, Mike Cummins, Hillshire’s director of corporate communications, deferred to Hillshire’s statement.

Sard Verbinnen & Co. is supporting Hillshire with comms for its proposed acquisition of Pinnacle.

The proposed Tyson transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and the termination of Hillshire's merger agreement with Pinnacle.

In January, Tyson acquired Bosco’s Pizza.  

For the second quarter of 2014, Tyson reported net income of $213 million, a 124% increase from the same period the prior year. The company’s sales also grew 7.7% to $9.03 billion in Q2, from $8.38 billion in 2013.

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