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Thomas H. Lee Said to Triple Money With Sale of Acosta

Thomas H. Lee Partners LP will more than triple its investment in Acosta Sales & Markets Co. after Carlyle Group LP (CG) agreed to buy the company for $4.75 billion including current debt, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Thomas H. Lee, a 40-year-old Boston buyout firm, will receive more than $1.7 billion through the sale of a majority stake it acquired for about $500 million three years ago, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

Thomas H. Lee joins a host of buyout firms that are exiting investments to take advantage of stock markets near record highs. Buyout firms last year handed back a record $135 billion to investors last year, according to data from Cambridge Associates LLC, a Boston-based researcher and consultant. Exit activity last quarter rose to its highest dollar value in at least eight years, topping $144 billion, according to Preqin Ltd., a London-based researcher.

The value of the Acosta deal is nearly 13 times its annual earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, a common measure of deal value, the person said.

Over the last 12 months, the median multiple for announced North American buyouts was 10.9 times Ebitda, just below where values stood in 2007 at the buyout market’s peak, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Randy Whitestone, a Carlyle spokesman, and Robin Weinberg, a Thomas H. Lee spokeswoman at Sard Verbinnen & Co., declined to comment.

Shelf Space

Thomas H. Lee bought Acosta, the largest U.S. supermarket sales and marketing company, in early 2011 in a deal valued at more than $2 billion from private-equity firm AEA Investors LP.

Founded in 1927, the Jacksonville, Florida-based company helps consumer-goods and food giants like Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) and Coca-Cola Co. (KO) maneuver for shelf space and track prices in U.S. and Canadian supermarkets.

Its chief competitor is Advantage Sales & Marketing Inc., which Apax Partners LLP agreed last month to sell to private-equity firms Leonard Green & Partners LP and CVC Capital Partners Ltd. for over $4 billion.

Thomas H. Lee has taken two portfolio companies public since December, food-service provider Aramark Holding Corp. (ARMK) and GrubHub Inc. (GRUB), which runs Seamless.com and Menupages.com. In March, Thomas H. Lee and other private-equity firms agreed to sell Spanish cable operator Grupo Corporativo Ono SA to Vodaphone Group Plc for 7.2 billion euros ($9.7 billion).

Deal Volume

Washington-based Carlyle, the world’s second-biggest manager of alternatives to stocks and bonds, completed the highest volume of deals among global buyout firms in the second quarter, investing $2.6 billion of its funds’ equity, according to Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN) research. They included the $4.15 billion carve-out of Johnson & Johnson’s blood-diagnostics unit, announced in January, and the $1.93 billion acquisition of Tyco International Ltd. (TYC)’s fire and security business in South Korea, which Carlyle announced in March.

Earlier in the year, Carlyle closed a $3.2 billion deal for Illinois Tool Works Inc.’s industrial-packaging business. The firm is investing its sixth fund dedicated to U.S. leveraged buyouts, a $13 billion pool that finished gathering capital in November.

Globally, leveraged buyouts’ deal volume stood at $61.6 billion this year through yesterday, a 39 percent decline from the same period last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

To contact the reporters on this story: David Carey in New York at dcarey13@bloomberg.net; Devin Banerjee in New York at dbanerjee2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Christian Baumgaertel at cbaumgaertel@bloomberg.net Mary Romano, Pierre Paulden

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