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August 18, 2009 10:52 AM

Gibson Dunn Advises on Dole IPO

Posted by Drew Combs

For two years, Dole Food has relied on Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to defend it against lawsuits brought by Nicaraguan farm workers alleging they were exposed to a harmful pesticide used to boost banana production. Now the fresh-produce company is turning to the firm for help on its planned initial public offering.

Dole filed paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday for an initial public offering that will include both newly issued shares and shares sold by its sole stockholder. Dole is closely held by billionaire David Murdock, who took the company private in 2003. The price range has yet to be set, but the company plans to raise $500 million to pay down debt, among other things.

Jonathan Layne, cochair of Gibson Dunn’s mergers and acquisitions group, is leading a team of four partners and four associates working on the IPO. Layne declined to comment and a firm spokesperson declined to go into detail about the firm’s relationship with Dole.

Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole, which was founded in 1851, describes itself as the largest producer and distributor of fresh fruit and vegetables. The company’s extensive fresh fruit line ranges from apples to yucca root. But the company’s offerings also include packaged salads, frozen fruit, and juices.

Gibson Dunn has previously worked on other corporate matters for Dole, but in recent years the firm’s litigation work for the company has been in the spotlight. In 2007, Dole hired Gibson Dunn to appeal an award of $3.2 million to a group of Nicaraguan workers claiming they were sterile after being exposed to the pesticide DBCP while working for the company.

The firm’s involvement in the lawsuit eventually grew to include similar cases that had yet to make it to trial. And some of them never will after Dole investigators discovered efforts by some plaintiffs attorneys to recruit plaintiffs who were not sterile and never worked for Dole. A California judge dismissed two of the cases in April, calling them “a blatant extortion of the defendants.”

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