To grow his company, Charles “Chuck” James is always looking for the next angle. When he sought to expand the customer base of C. H. James & Son (Holdings) Inc., the fourth-generation food processing concern, several years ago, he strategically partnered with Golden State Foods (GSF) and, as a result, became a major supplier for McDonald’s Corp. That maneuver more than doubled revenues of the 116-year-old company to roughly $31 million. It now ranks No. 70 on the be industrial/service 100 list.
Now James is making moves once again. He recently completed “a strategic divestiture” of North American Produce (NAP), the company’s City of Industry, California-based produce subsidiary. The transaction, valued in excess of $10 million, will help generate capital the 40-year-old CEO needs to seek out new deals and expand his business. James is in discussions with investment bankers and venture capitalists about future acquisitions in food processing and distribution. “I had everything tied up in the business,” he says. “I felt it was time to make sure that my family’s future was secure and, at the same time, free up dollars to reinvest in the business.”
Under the terms of the recent deal, James has sold NAP to GSF, a major vendor for McDonald’s, which held a 49% stake in the company. James also sold its 40% stake in GSF Australia, a Sydney, Australia-based company that processes and distributes pre-cut lettuce to McDonald’s restaurants in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan Malaysia and other Pacific Rim countries.
The holding company will retain the NAP brand name. The NAP unit will supply produce products to Wendy’s International; Darden’s Restaurants, the chain that owns the popular Olive Garden restaurants; and Columbia/HCA, the nation’s largest hospital chain.
C.H. James is divided into three distinct units: besides NAP, which processes pre-cut produce, it includes Pinnacle, a produce grower, shipper and distributor, and C.H. James & Co., the wholesale food distribution operation that was started over a century ago.