J.W. Childs Equity Partners II LP purchased NutraSweet Co. from Monsanto Co. - now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pharmacia Corp. - for $440 million Thursday. Company officials made the announcement Tuesday.
The sale includes the company's 330-employee manufacturing facility in Augusta and a product called neotame that is sweeter than NutraSweet, an artificial sweetener first sold in 1981 and also known as aspartame.
The deal initially was announced in March. All of NutraSweet's employees, about 500, were offered positions under the new ownership.
"The plant remains a very important and critical part of providing the world's best aspartame for our customers," said Bill DeFer, NutraSweet's senior vice president of global operations. "And that doesn't change."
Mr. DeFer previously has been the site manager for Monsanto in Augusta.
Nick Rosa, formerly a Monsanto vice president, will be the company's president and chief executive officer. Tim Healy, a managing director of J.W. Childs, will be chairman. Both were executives at NutraSweet in the early 1980s.
NutraSweet is based in Chicago.
J.W. Childs is a Boston-based private investment firm. It was established in 1995 by John W. Childs and three other investors, all from the Thomas H. Lee Co.
The company focuses on acquiring and growing middle-market companies, especially those in the food, beverage and food ingredients business. NutraSweet is used in a variety of products, including diet soda.
The product will be an important part of J.W. Child's portfolio. The company's holdings include American Safety Razor, Bass Pro Shops, Beltone Electronics Corp., Chevys Inc. and Empire Kosher Poultry Inc. Former investments include Snapple, Ghirardelli Chocolate Co. and General Nutrition Centers.
NutraSweet executives expect neotame, a new generation, high-intensity sweetener that is calorie-free, to be a profitable product. Neotame is 8,000 times sweeter than sugar, 40 times sweeter than NutraSweet.
"The NutraSweet Co. revolutionized the sweetener industry in 1981 with the introduction of aspartame," Mr. Rosa said. "We intend to do it again with neotame when we receive approval from various regulatory agencies around the world."
However, it must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before it can be sold.
Mr. DeFer declined to speculate when it would be allowed on the market or where the product would be made. But he did not rule out Augusta.
"Augusta certainly would be a site we'd consider," he said.
Reach Frank Witsil at 823-3352.
Chairman: Tim Healy
President and CEO: Nick E. Rosa
New product: Neotame
Local employees: 330