Mills Fleet Farm sold to investment firm

Posted at 8:04 AM, Jan 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-05 13:14:28-05
BRAINERD, Minn. (AP) -- One of the country's largest investment firms, KKR of New York, is acquiring the family-owned Midwestern retailer Mills Fleet Farm, both companies announced Tuesday.
KKR has holdings in various industries totaling about $100 billion. It planned to operate Mills Fleet Farm independently of its other retailers, including Toys R Us, US Foods and Channel Control Merchants, executive Nate Taylor said in a statement. Terms of the purchase agreement have not been disclosed.
Mills Fleet Farm, founded in 1955 by Stewart Mills Sr., along with his sons Henry Mills II and Stewart Mills Jr., is headquartered in Brainerd and operates 35 stores in rural communities and suburbs in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and North Dakota. Its merchandise includes hunting, fishing and sporting goods, as well as clothing and farm animal supplies.
The Mills sons, co-presidents in their 80s, said in a statement that they decided to "partner" with KKR so the company would be poised for "the next level of growth for the future."
The Mills put the company up for sale last fall. Stewart Mills III, the founder's grandson, told the Brainerd Daily Dispatch at the time that the retailer needed deeper pockets in order to add stores and update it distribution network and warehouse.
"We took great care in our approach to finding the right partner who shared our values and would preserve the legacy the Mills family has built after serving the Midwest over the last 60 years," the sons of the founder said in Tuesday's statement. "We truly believe KKR is the best fit for our organization and also the best fit for our employees."
Taylor, who runs the retail businesses within KKR's private-equity portfolio, said that while KKR has acquired majority control of the stock, the Mills family will retain a small ownership stake in the company. Several Mills family members are expected to maintain offices and contribute as advisers.