Dole Food Co., which majority owner David Murdock took private several years ago, said Friday that it is planning an initial public offering that could raise as much as $500 million.

The Westlake Village fresh fruit and vegetables giant said it has filed a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for the proposed offering. The offering would be comprised of newly issued shares and shares sold by Murdock, now the sole shareholder. Dole plans to apply to list the shares on the New York Stock Exchange.

A billionaire real estate developer and ardent heath food advocate, the 86-year-old Murdock acquired a majority interest in Dole in 2003 and took the company private in a deal valued at $2.5 billion at the time. The Business Journal in May estimated his net worth at $3.7 billion.

The company, which had 2008 revenue of $7.6 billion, expects to use the net proceeds to pay off some debt and for general corporate purposes. The offering has yet to be priced and the number of shares to be offered by Dole and Murdock is still undetermined, the company said.

Best known for its bananas, pineapples and similar fresh fruit and vegetables, Dole in recent years has expanded into the higher-margin packaged food business, with a growing line of packaged salads, fruit bowls and similar products.

Dole has been selling assets in recent months to pay down debt. It recently announced plans to sell some properties in Latin America for about $68 million.

The company reported some financial because of its debt offerings and earlier this month said cash flow from operations jumped 183 percent to $170 million in the second quarter.

But the recession has taken its toll. Net revenue for the six months that ended June 20 fell by 11 percent to $3.3 billion with net income down 18 percent to $123 million.

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