Regions Central Virginia

C.F. Sauer Co.’s new owner has a recipe for success

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Print this page by Kate Andrews
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C.F. Sauer Co. was acquired in July by Falfurrias Capital Group.
Photo by Sharda Byrd

The company behind 102-year-old Duke’s Mayonnaise is changing hands, but the new owners have no intention to tinker with the famous brand’s recipe.

“We don’t plan to mess with perfection,” says Chip Johnson, a principal at Charlotte, North Carolina-based private equity firm Falfurrias Capital Group, which acquired Richmond-based C.F. Sauer Co. on July 15, changing its name to Sauer Brands Inc.

The deal transferred ownership from the Sauer family, which ran the company for 132 years. Founded by Conrad Frederick Sauer, C.F. Sauer Co. began selling flavor extracts in 1887 and expanded to condiments, spices, seasonings and other lines, such as Duke’s, its flagship product. Other Sauer brands include The Spice Hunter, Gold Medal and BAMA.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but the purchase will be Falfurrias’ largest acquisition, according to spokesman David Coburn. Co-founded by former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl in 2006, Falfurrias was previously best known for its 2007 acquisition of a majority stake in the Bojangles’ Inc. fried chicken fast-food chain, which it sold for an undisclosed amount in 2011.

Falfurrias plans to retain C.F. Sauer’s 860 employees, including 165 in Richmond. With a 14-person staff and a portfolio of eight companies, Falfurrias doesn’t anticipate layoffs at Sauer, says Will­iam W. “Bill” Lovette, Sauer Brands’ interim CEO and executive chairman.

“We want to grow the company, both the headquarters and the operations,” Lovette says, “so we plan for Richmond to be the headquarters long-term.”

Lovette succeeds Conrad F. Sauer IV, the only Sauer family member to remain on the Sauer Brands board. Falfurrias will own all of the Sauer food properties, but the Sauer family will continue to own Richmond-based Sauer Properties. It holds 24 acres of commercial and industrial property near the city’s Fan District, including a mixed-use retail and office project at 2200 W. Broad St. that will be anchored by a Whole Foods Market.

Lovette, Johnson and Falfurrias principal Ken Walker will work with a search firm to find the company’s new CEO, but Lovette says, “We’re in no particular hurry in finding a CEO. I’m willing to take the time to find a CEO that fits culturally. I’m willing to be present in Richmond, and I think I’m going to enjoy being there.”

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