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Sun World sells to British private-equity group

A British private equity group has acquired a controlling interest in Sun World International LLC, a leading fruit genetics company with offices in Bakersfield and a large, new research facility in Wasco.

Palm Desert-based Sun World announced Wednesday it agreed to be purchased by Bridgepoint Advisers Limited, headquartered in London, in a deal expected to close in the second quarter. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Owned since 2013 by Los Angeles-based Renewable Resources Group LLC and Vision Ridge Partners, which has offices in Colorado and New York, Sun World was founded in the mid-1970s and now owns more than 300 plant patents and licenses more than 1,800 growers in 15 countries including Chile, Israel, South Africa and Spain.

Sun World sold off its Kern County farming operation in 2019 to focus on fruit breeding. Last year it opened a 160-acre experimental research farm next to a new office and laboratory complex measuring 17,000 square feet.

CEO David Marguleas will serve on the new board and maintain an equity stake in the operation. He said in a news release Sun World's connection with Bridgepoint was immediately clear.

"They understand and appreciate the extraordinary head start we enjoy in the sector after 30 years of breeding superior produce. And they share our vision of the many ways we can grow," he stated. "To say we're 'excited' undersells what this new partnership means for Sun World."

The release said Sun World anticipates growth though organic means and "through investment and acquisition of new genetics and emerging technologies" with the potential to add value for its farming partners around the world.

"In partnering with Sun World, our ambition is for it to become a broader-based platform investment in fruit genetics with a considerable runway for long-term growth," Bridgepoint partner Andrew Sweet stated.

Bridgepoint manages assets valued at more than $30 billion. The company says it concentrates on buying or investing in businesses with already-strong market positions and growth potential "where significant additional value can be created through expansion."