David Murdock, chief executive of Dole Food Co., and a former Dole executive were ordered to pay $148 million to shareholders Thursday after a Delaware judge ruled they rigged the 2013 deal through which Murdock took the company private.
The Westlake Village producer of vegetables and fruits went private in 2013 when Murdock bought the 60 percent of the company he didn’t own for $13.50 a share.
In a ruling Thursday, a Delaware Chancery Court judge found that Murdock and former Dole chief operating officer Michael Carter made false disclosures to keep the deal on track. The bogus information included “lowball management projections” and inaccurate financial information that drove down Dole’s stock price, effectively giving Murdock a discount.
Murdock and Carter are personally liable for the $148 million, which represents $2.74 of incremental value for each Dole share Murdock acquired. In May, the Business Journal estimated Murdock’s net worth at $3.3 billion.
Dole declined to comment on the suit.
In the 106-page opinion, the court found that Dole President David DeLorenzo and the company’s financial adviser, Deutsche Bank Securities, were not liable to shareholders.