Lehman, Witkoff buy Unilever brands

Lehman Brothers Merchant Banking has teamed up with Witkoff Group founder Steven Witkoff to buy four home care brands from Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever.

The private equity arm of Lehman Brothers and Witkoff Group’s Steven Witkoff have bought four brands from Unilever for an undisclosed sum.

The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, sees Mark Landry drafted in to run the businesses. Landry was a former senior vice president of Unilever Home & Personal Care North America and has extensive experience in the management of home and personal care brands as well as having worked on the brands being acquired.

The brands included in the sale are: Rit fabric dye products worldwide; Niagara ironing aid products in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico, with extensive licensing rights in certain Central American countries and Mexico; Final Touch fabric softeners in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico; and extensive licensing rights to Sunlight dishwashing detergents in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. Sales of the four brands in the nine months to September 27 2003 totalled $107m.

Lehman Brothers’ private equity division has total assets under management of approximately $6.5bn, while Steven Witkoff is CEO of Witkoff Group, the New York-based real estate investment firm.

In November, Unilever sold its Ambrosia and Brown & Polson food brands to Premier Foods, a Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst portfolio company, for a reported sum of around E105m.