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Stevco adds private equity partner

Steven Gilfenbain, the founder and chief executive officer of Stevco Inc., a large California grape grower-shipper, has sold a “substantial” portion of his company to a private equity firm.

 

Steve GildenbainSteve Gilfenbain

“You can call it an exit strategy,” he told The Produce News Tuesday, May 3. “I am 69 years old, and I have two young kids. If they were older and ready to take over, I would hold on to the company. But they are not.”

 

Mr. Gilfenbain, who started the firm in 1974, said that the current management team, including himself, would stay in place and “run the company exactly how it has been run for many years. We will produce the same great quality that we always have.”

However, he added, “We are going to expand the business at a very fast pace.”

Today, Stevco grows and ships grapes from all California districts as well as from Mexico. It is one of a very few firms that have production in all of those regions, which enables it to ship grapes from May through December.

Mr. Gilfenbain said that expansion plans could include forays into new production areas, new products or both. “I am not at liberty to say right now. We are currently discussing that.”

Stevco Inc. is headquartered in Beverly Hills, CA, but it maintains offices and shipping operations in several grape growing districts in the state, including Coachella, Bakersfield and Delano. The Coachella and Mexican grape growing deals have just gotten underway for the 2011 season.

Recently, Jared Lane, vice president of sales for Stevco, said that sourcing from Mexico and Coachella at the same time presents challenges but also has its benefits. “We can supply any customer at any time. Every customer is different — some want one variety from Coachella and another from Mexico. We can do that,” he said.