Oklahoma Police Pension & Retirement System, Oklahoma City, filed a lawsuit Aug. 16 against Dole Food Co. Inc. and its buyout proposal to take the company private.
In the lawsuit filed in Delaware Chancery Court, the $2 billion pension fund accuses Dole CEO David H. Murdock and the board of undervaluing the company by offering $13.50 per share to public stakeholders. About 40% of the company is controlled by Mr. Murdock.
The Dole board approved the $13.50 offer price on Aug. 12.
The lawsuit said Mr. Murdock “has run the company as his private fiefdom” since acquiring Dole in 1985, moving in and out of the CEO position and moving Dole in and out of public equity markets. Dole was taken private in 2002 and then a 60% stake was sold to the public in 2009.
“If the transaction is approved, the public holders will be frozen out in a grossly unfair transaction,” the complaint states. “On information and belief, in April 2013 Murdock’s investment banker Deutsche Bank (in its role as Dole’s lender) presented materials to Dole lenders indicating the company was worth $23 a share — 70% more than the price the board agreed to accept.”
The Oklahoma pension fund owns about 90,000 shares of Doles valued around $1.2 million. The stock ended Monday trading at $13.46 per share.
Steven Snyder, chief investment officer and executive director of the pension plan, did not return a telephone call by press time. Dole spokesman Marty Ordman could not be reached for comment.