The Gold Coast family that rescued Darrell Lea chocolate brand from receivership more than a decade ago has come to the aid of embattled dessert-food brand Sara Lea following a buyout deal announced by the company’s administrators today.
A private company owned by Klark and Brooke Quinn has agreed to acquire Sara Lee’s Australian and New Zealand business in a move that is expected to save 200 jobs that have been hanging in the balance since the company hit the wall late last year. Financial details of the acquisition have not been disclosed.
Vaughan Strawbridge, Joseph Hansell and Kathryn Evans, of FTI Consulting, were appointed as voluntary administrators of Sara Lee on 17 October as the company struggled with debts of more than $50 million.
Sara Lee, which manufactures frozen cakes, pies, crumbles and ice creams distributed through supermarkets, was established in 1971 with a production facility at Lisarow near Gosford on the NSW Central Coast. The company also operates foodservice and catering business.
“Sara Lee is an iconic brand and category leader,” says Strawbridge, who has led the administration of the company over the past three months.
“Staff and consumers have rallied behind the business during this tough time, and we are so grateful to the loyal workforce and management team who have made this process a success while they have continued to produce amazing products.
“We have enjoyed working with the Sara Lee team and are pleased to see them come through this process. Many staff have been with Sara Lee a long time and we have seen their passion for the business.”
The Quinn family, which founded VIP Petfoods on the Gold Coast in 1992 and are among Queensland’s rich-listers, secured Sara Lee following a sale process that was finalised by the administrators last week.
Klark Quinn is the son of Tony and Christina Quinn who sold VIP Pet Foods, since renamed Real Petfood Company, for $410 million in a private equity deal in 2015.
Klark Quinn was appointed to lead Darrell Lea after the family rescued the confectionery business in 2012, selling it six years later for $200 million.
The Quinn family’s immediate plans for Sara Lee have not been disclosed, but their successful offer follows interest from about 40 potential buyers for the business which has been owned by New Zealand private equity group South Island Office since 2021.
The business was later merged with New Zealand wholesale bakery The Original Foods Baking Co. However, it is only Sara Lee’s Australian operations that were placed into voluntary administration in October.
“We are a small Aussie family that shared in the tradition of having Sara Lee apple pie and vanilla ice-cream every Sunday night at the dinner table and could not be more proud to put the Aussie-made-and-owned stamp on the Sara Lee brand,” say Klark and Brooke Quinn in a joint statement.
Under Klark Quinn's leadership from 2012, Darrell Lea underwent a comprehensive restructuring that included the abandonment of near century-old tradition of stand-alone stores to be replaced by a new global retail distribution model. In the year it was sold, Darrell Lea had nearly doubled earnings to $23 million with annual sales exceeding $110 million.
Based on their track record, it is not unlikely that the Quinns may seek a private equity exit of the Sara Lee business in future once it is back on track.
Over the past nine years, the family has effectively wrapped up $610 million in exit deals with Quadrant Private Equity with the sale of VIP Petfoods and Darrell Lea.
The Australian-based Sara Lee manufacturing business trades under licence from the global owner of the trademark, with rights to operate in Australia, New Zealand, South-East Asia and the Middle East.
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