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Sprouts Farmers Market and Sunflower Farmers Market, two independent and value-driven natural food store chains, announced an agreement to merge.  The combined company will operate 139 stores under the Sprouts Farmers Market name and will have approximately 10,000 employees. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2012.

It is currently expected that all of the Sunflower stores will be re-branded under the Sprouts banner by the end of 2012.

Sprouts is majority-owned by investment funds affiliated with Apollo Global Management, LLC, and operated by the Boney Family; Sunflower, co-founded in 2002 by Libby Cook and Randy Clapp, is privately owned by the co-founders, management and KMCP Advisors, a provider of private expansion capital.  The combined company will continue to be majority-owned and controlled by Apollo.

According to company officials, 2012 revenue for the combined company should be close to $2 billion. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
KC's View:
While Sunflower has continued to grow, there’s no question that it was hurt by the events of a little over a year ago, when Michael Gilliland, the company’s CEO, was arrested on charges of child prostitution and subsequent had to resign.

This certainly seems to make sense for both companies, and it helps to wipe away some of the negative energy attached to Sunflower.