Breaking today on every single media outlet that reports business news: Peet’s Coffee and Tea has been sold to a German conglomerate for a price tag of nearly one billion dollars. This officially ends any speculation that Starbucks might go all oedipal/prodigal on Peet’s and buy them out, instantaneously smiting and smothering their oldest rivals and closest friends. That would have made for a much more gleeful headline, but whatever, we’re not in control of the universe.

First, on the business front, we turn to Business Week:

Peet’s Coffee & Tea is being taken private by a German conglomerate for approximately $977.6 million. Privately held Joh. A. Benckiser, which invests in consumer goods brands, will pay $73.50 per share, a 29 percent premium to Peet’s closing stock price of $57.16 on Friday. The companies said Monday the deal was worth about $1 billion.

The current management and employees will remain with the company and its headquarters will stay in Emeryville, Calif. The acquisition, which was unanimously approved by Peet’s board, is expected to close in about three months. A majority of Peet’s outstanding stock must be voted in favor of the deal at an upcoming special shareholders meeting.

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Not content to be mere paraphrasers, the folks at the LA Times have some additional insight on the sale:

Last spring, Peet’s and Starbucks were rumored to be in talks to combine in an effort to boost both brands’ presence in grocery stores. Peet’s founder Alfred Peet knew the Starbucks founders and sold them coffee beans when they launched their business a few years after Peet’s first opened. But now, Peet’s will go to a company better known for its holdings in beauty and luxury.

Benckiser owns a majority stake in Coty Inc., the maker of OPI nail polish and celebrity perfumes. Coty recently abandoned its attempts to buy beauty company Avon Products Inc.  for $10.7 billion and said it instead plans to raise $700 million in an initial public offering. Benckiser also owns Labelux, a luxury goods company with brands such as Jimmy Choo and Bally. The deal with Peet’s, which was unanimously approved by the coffee-maker’s board, is expected to close in about three months.

Peet’s is unquestionably one of the true pioneers in North American specialty coffee, creating the roaster/retailer model and importing high-grade arabica coffee before such practices were commonplace. For more on the history of Peet’s, you should go read the Peet’s Coffee & Tea Wiki (as yet not updated to include sale info) and Bay Area residents might consider a pilgrimage today to the original Peet’s location (now part museum) on Walnut & Vine in North Berkeley.

There’s tons of other news outlets reporting on this today, but they’re all parroting the same half-dozen nuggets of info, including this bizarre claim about Peet’s drinkers customers being referred to at one point in time as “peetniks”. Man, the 60’s really must have been a wild ride.


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