Marc Ellis in line for millions from Charlie's sale

WILLIAM MACE
Last updated 12:50 04/07/2011

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Auckland celebrity entrepreneur Marc Ellis is in line for a multi-million dollar payout with the imminent sale of juice company Charlie's.

Charlie's chairman Ted van Arkel compared his Kiwi start-up company to Glaxo as he and Stefan Lepionka presented Asahi's takeover proposal today.

As a 14 percent shareholder Lepionka's family trust stands to make $18.2 million, while two family trusts involving Ellis are in line for about $18.1m.

Largest shareholder, Collins Asset Management, will make $25.1m in the deal.

The Glaxo name, which now makes up part of multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, sprang from Wellington and the Manawatu in the 1870s.

"I keep on saying to the guys that this is the Glaxo story quite frankly; it came from Palmerston North many, many years ago and look where it is now - that's the goal," Van Arkel said today.

Japanese drinks giant Asahi has offered 44c a share offer for Charlie's, valuing the company at $129 million - a 57 per cent premium on the company's closing price on Friday of 28c.

Charlie's founder Stefan Lepionka repeatedly described the imminent sale as "a great Kiwi story", and he said fellow founders - including former All Black Marc Ellis and Simon Neal - always had an exit strategy in mind.

"Our goal was to build a $100m business, we set that goal twelve years ago and we've achieved that today so we're pretty happy about setting a goal and achieveing it."

Lepionka said the company's management had played the competitive international beverage business game "hard and well".

"In developing these brands we've built strong foundations for an international beverage business, and it's these foundations that attracted attention and a subsequent offer from Asahi," said Lepionka.

"I'm really proud of Charlies and what we've accomplished to date, I believe we have a significant offer on the table that reflects those achievements and I'm confident you will agree with me that this is the right direction for Charlie's at this juncture."

Asahi's Australian managing director David Beguely is also a New Zealander who remembered the launch of the Phoenix brand 25 years ago, before it was subsequently bought by Charlie's.

He said Charlie's was "a very complementary business to ours - it concentrates on the premium sector where our focus is largely on the mainstream sector".

He said Asahi planned to continue running Charlie's as a "stand-alone and innovative business under Stefan's leadership".

"Our role is to guide growth and, where it makes sense, obviously to extend the reach of Charlie's within Australia and beyond."

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Asahi's offer is conditional on reaching 90 per cent ownership and Overseas Investment Office approval.

Offer documents and an independent adviser's report will be sent to shareholders in the week beginning July 18.

- Stuff

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