Where Lbo Means `Let's Be Offbeat'

Hicks Muse's unusual approach puts it in the top tier

At first glance, the tiny division of chemical giant DuPont Co. was not an operation to quicken the pulse of a dealmaker on the prowl. The unit was in the ho-hum business of producing electrical connectors, sockets, and cable assemblies. But to the Dallas leveraged-buyout firm Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst Inc., it seemed a terrific opportunity. First, Hicks Muse had a St. Louis management firm, Mills & Partners Inc., study the division. Mills's conclusion: The division's earnings would be boosted considerably as a stand-alone company. Hicks Muse proceeded to fork over $370 million to DuPont in March, 1993, renamed the unit Berg Electronics Inc., and replaced its general manager with James N. Mills of Mills & Partners. Then, Hicks Muse shelled out a further $135 million for Berg to buy six more related companies.

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