Dole Food Co. said late Wednesday that it agreed to a takeover by Chief Executive David H. Murdock after he raised his original offer by almost 14%.
Westlake Village-based Dole, the world's biggest producer of fresh fruits and vegetables, said Murdock agreed to pay $33.50 a share in cash for the 76% of Dole stock that he and his family don't already own.
That would be an increase of $4 a share from the $29.50 a share Murdock offered in September. The total value of the bid, including Murdock's assumption of Dole's debt, was put at $2.5 billion.
Dole's board had rejected Murdock's initial offer as too low. The new offer will be submitted to shareholders for approval.
By taking Dole private, the publicity-shy billionaire would no longer have to worry about Wall Street's view of the company, and would be free to transfer Dole's earnings and assets among his other business ventures. For example, he has extensive real estate holdings.
Murdock, 79, has been criticized by some shareholders who say he has operated the company as a private fiefdom, to his investors' detriment.
The stock closed at $28.45 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange, down 24 cents, before the deal was announced.