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KKR completes purchase of Mills Fleet Farm

BRAINERD, Minn. -- It's official: KKR, a global investment firm, reports the purchase of Mills Fleet Farm is complete. The announcement came after 4 p.m. Monday, but KKR declined to release any financial data on a purchase price of the retailer t...

Mills Fleet Farm in Baxter is now officially part of KKR as the global investment firm announces the purchase of Fleet Farm is complete. (Dispatch File Photo)
Mills Fleet Farm in Baxter is now officially part of KKR as the global investment firm announces the purchase of Fleet Farm is complete. (Dispatch File Photo)

BRAINERD, Minn. -- It's official: KKR, a global investment firm, reports the purchase of Mills Fleet Farm is complete.

The announcement came after 4 p.m. Monday, but KKR declined to release any financial data on a purchase price of the retailer that operates 35 stores located throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North Dakota.

Duncan Mac Naughton, leading retail veteran and former chief merchandising and marketing officer at Wal-Mart, assumes the role of CEO of Mills Fleet Farm effective immediately. Also effective as part of the transaction close, Hugh Leasum, currently a member of Mills Fleet Farm's executive management team, will assume the role of chief operating officer.

In a news release, KKR reported that beyond those two executive changes, Mills Fleet Farm's existing executive management team will continue to perform their roles and manage the business.

"Mills Fleet Farm is a beloved Midwest retailer that has upheld the Mills family principles over the last 60 years," Leasum stated in the news release. "We are excited to welcome Duncan back to his native Wisconsin and to the Mills Fleet Farm team. We are confident that Duncan Mac Naughton, in partnership with the outstanding executive team already in place, will drive the company's continued growth, while preserving the Mills' values of honesty, integrity, hard work, service and loyalty."

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Mac Naughton brings a track record of more than 30 years of experience in the retail sector. He first joined Wal-Mart in 2009 where he soon oversaw all merchandise categories across more than 3,700 stores in the U.S. as chief merchandising and marketing officer. Before joining Wal-Mart, Mac Naughton held a number of leadership roles at Supervalu Inc., H-E-B Grocery Company and Kraft Foods Group Inc.

"I am honored to lead Mills Fleet Farm, a true legacy brand in the Midwest and one that I have grown up with since my early days in Wisconsin," Mac Naughton said. "In partnership with the executive management team and KKR, I look forward to furthering the opportunities for growth that lie ahead for Mills Fleet Farm and continuing to invest significantly in the business, adding infrastructure, stores, and local jobs."

Mac Naugton was not available for an interview Monday.

"We have decided to partner with KKR in order to take Mills Fleet Farm to the next level of growth for the future," said co-presidents Henry Mills II and Stewart Mills Jr., in a statement when the sale was first announced. "We took great care in our approach to finding the right partner who shared our values and would preserve the legacy the Mills family has built after serving the Midwest over the last 60 years. We truly believe KKR is the best fit for us organizationally and also the best fit for our employees."

In December of 2015, Reuters reported KKR was in the lead among the suitors to acquire Mills Fleet Farm for $1.2 billion, including debt, according to people familiar with the matter. "KKR has a lot of experience with companies in the sector, including outdoor retailer Academy Sports + Outdoors, which it has owned since 2011," Reuters reported. "Like Mills Fleet, Academy Sports sells hunting and fishing equipment, along with other outdoors goods."

Mills Fleet Farm was founded in 1955 by Stewart Mills Sr. along with his sons, Henry Mills II and Stewart Mills Jr., with major operations in Brainerd and in Appleton, Wis.

A leading global investment firm, KKR manages investments across multiple asset classes including private equity, energy, infrastructure, real estate, credit and hedge funds.

"KKR aims to generate attractive investment returns by following a patient and disciplined investment approach, employing world‐class people, and driving growth and value creation at the asset level. KKR invests its own capital alongside its partners' capital and brings opportunities to others through its capital markets business," the company reported.

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