CASE STUDY NO. 2917: MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS


PR Helps Distressed Company Find Buyer Not all companies can make it on their own, and when they can't, there's always someone else who may be willing to give it the old college try. This is the story of a company that didn't try to build itself back up on its own, but rather, created and publicized a reason for others to want to buy it. Kamer-Singer and Associates, a San Francisco PR and public affairs firm, worked with snack food manufacturer G.F. Industries, San Mateo, Calif., to find potential buyers to save one of its units potato chip maker, Granny Goose Foods, Inc., (GG) in Oakland, Calif., and its 600 plus employees. The 50-year-old Granny Goose was losing market share to chip superpowers like PepsiCo Inc. [PEP] (owner of Frito Lay) and Anheuser Busch Companies Inc. [BUD] (owner of Eagle Brand). G.F. Industries, GG's parent company, put GG up for sale in January 1995 after the chip company's five-year slump and contacted a New York investment banking firm to find a buyer. When no one had jumped to buy GG come March, G.F. hired Kamer-Singer to spur interest. The Plan The objectives for the plan were to attract buyers, but also gain support from the community's elected officials, union leaders and members to help publicize GG. It would be portrayed as the "little company that could," one that succeeded just fine until national giant companies forced it out of business. The message was that hopefully, the right investor could help build it back up to become a market player again. The "Save the Goose" campaign targeted elected officials, news media, consumers, union leadership, employees and retail stores/vendors. Kamer-Singer conducted research on previous regional competitors and the news coverage they received when announcing their closure. It wrote personal letters to target audiences and sent out media materials that outlined GG's situation. Meetings were set up with union representatives, elected officials and the local economic development commission to discuss the situation and determine what type of support could be beneficial. Kamer-Singer developed an employee communications plan, which described unemployment benefits and other details that would be of interest in case of closure. As Sam Singer, principal of KS said, "we had to be forthright with the employees about possible closure... but we kept in constant contact with them and told them about our progress along the way." City officials decided that the best way to help GG was to negotiate an understanding that if a potential buyer was found, who could not quite meet the financial requirements of purchasing GG, the city of Oakland would make a low-interest loan to that party. A "Granny Goose" character made public appearances, product prices were lowered from $1.59 to 99 cents and point-of-purchase materials like buttons and bumper stickers were created. GG took their product right onto the streets, selling bags of chips in high traffic areas from delivery trucks. GG also partnered with the Oakland A's baseball team for an opening day appearance by the Goose. Steve Barbieri, general counsel of G.F. Industries, said Kamer-Singer had the difficult task of learning the manufacturing industry practically overnight. There was deadline after deadline, because the 60-day notice to close the plant were pushed back, after the prospects of a buyer kept looking better. "They mitigated the negative energy that was in the air when GG was about to be sold. The fir [K-S] listened, heard and acted quickly...they bought us time and found us a buyer when everyone wanted to bury us," said Barbieri. Three potential buyers were found, and one put together a deal to buy GG, with the help of the City of Oakland and G.F. Industries. Kamer-Singer estimates that the campaign received about $250,000 worth of media coverage between March and July, when GG was finally sold. Coverage of the Save The Goose program was picked up on every major TV and radio affiliate, and in every daily newspaper in the San Francisco Bay area. GG is now up and running again, because the new owner, Oakland entrepreneur Keith Kim is doing an excellent job of managing and restructuring the plant, said Singer. A contributing factor to GG's new success is that Eagle Brand snacks discontinued their snack line this year, and GG picked up much of their regional business. (Kamer-Singer, 415/512-6800; G.F., 415/312-8600) How Granny Goose Foods Attracted Attention Created a strategy that focused on Granny Goose's history, importance in the community and the jobs the plant provides;Created news media materials and letters for target audiences describing the company's situationMet with union representatives, city officials and economic representatives to discuss help they could offer <P.Created an employee communications plan in case of plant closureDeveloped a "Buy a Bag, Save the Goose" campaign to keep interest high with news media, potential buyers, retailers and consumers.Lowered product prices to 99 cents a bag to keep revenue coming in during the campaign, andArranged for Granny Goose mascot to make public appearances, radio in-terviews

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