Concluding a journey that took years to complete and featured enough plot twists to make renowned filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock proud, Welbilt finally has a new corporate home.
The Ali Group’s deal to acquire the multiline equipment manufacturer is finally official for a total cost of $3.4 billion. As a result of the deal Welbilt’s common stock ceased trading as of the close of trading on July 28, 2022, and is no longer listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In a related move, Kevin Clark was named chief executive officer of Welbilt, effective immediately.
A 38-year veteran of the foodservice industry, Clark replaces Bill Johnson and assumes responsibility for the day-to-day management of Welbilt’s portfolio of companies including: Cleveland, Convotherm, Crem, Delfield, Frymaster, Garland, Kolpak, Lincoln, Merco, Merrychef and Multiplex. Welbilt also has three service brands: an aftermarket parts and service brand, KitchenCare; an integrated kitchen systems brand, FitKitchen; and a cloud-based digital platform brand, KitchenConnect.
Clark first joined the Ali Group in 2015 as president of Scotsman Ice Systems and in 2019 transitioned to the role of president of ACP. Clark’s background also includes executive roles with Middleby Marshall, Wells Bloomfield, The Delfield Company and Standex Cooking Solutions Group. “Kevin’s experience in both the hot and cold segments of the foodservice equipment industry make him the ideal choice to take Welbilt into the future,” said Filippo Berti, Ali Group chairman and chief executive officer in a statement. “I would also like to thank Bill Johnson for his years of service to Welbilt and to the foodservice industry. We wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Adding Welbilt will make Ali Group a more resilient company, Berti adds. “The completion of this transaction is an important milestone in Ali Group’s history and marks the beginning of our next chapter of growth,” Berti said in a statement. “Welbilt brings to Ali Group a rich heritage, talented team and an expansive portfolio of industry-leading foodservice solutions. With greater scale, an enhanced worldwide footprint and a highly complementary and comprehensive portfolio of premier brands across the entire foodservice value chain, we are well positioned to capitalize on the significant growth opportunities ahead. We are excited to welcome the talented Welbilt team to the Ali Group family and look forward to leveraging our strong global presence as we build on our culture of quality and innovation.”
Ali Group as had its eye on Welbilt since the late 1990s, Berti told Reuters. “Today Welbilt rebalances our sales towards the U.S. market and diversifies our offer at a time of economic recession, lowering our investment and exchange rate risk while strengthening our purchasing power when buying stainless steel,” Berti told Reuters. “Synergies will come mainly from a greater geographic penetration and cross-selling opportunities, manufacturing and supply chain optimization, and lower corporate costs as the business will not be listed.”
Ali Group made its initial offer to buy Welbilt in May of 2021. The Ali Group offer came roughly one month after Middleby and Welbilt reached an agreement that would have had Middleby acquire Welbilt as part of an all-stock transaction. In July of 2021, Middleby announced it was dropping its offer to acquire Welbilt. And at the same time, Welbilt’s shareholders approved Ali Group’s all-cash offer, which had an enterprise value of $4.8 billion at the time.
The deal was then the subject of regulatory approvals both in the U.S. and abroad. And in late June the European Union granted conditional approval of Ali Group’s plan to acquire Welbilt. In order to gain regulatory approval of this deal, though, Ali Group and Welbilt agreed to sell Manitowoc Ice. And Pentair acquired Manitowoc Ice in March of 2022.
Completion of this deal represents the latest in a long line of transitional moments for the collection of foodservice equipment brands that combine to form Welbilt. In April of 2008, Manitowoc, which then had its cranes and ice machine business, announced the acquisition of the Enodis Companies, which included such brands as Garland, Cleveland, Lincoln, Merrychef, Frymaster, Delfield, Kolpak, Scotsman and Ice-O-Matic. To gain governmental approval for the deal, Manitowoc was required to sell Ice-O-Matic and Scotsman, which it did, to investment firm Warburg Pincus in May of 2009. Warburg Pincus eventually sold Ice-O-Matic and Scotsman to their current owners, Ali Group, in November 2012.
In March 2016, The Manitowoc Company separated its foodservice business from its crane business, creating an independent, publicly traded company that goes to market as Manitowoc Foodservice. And in March 2017 Manitowoc Foodservice was renamed Welbilt.