David Murdock, former chief executive of Dole Food Co., and another former executive were ordered to pay $148 million to shareholders Thursday because they breached their fiduciary duties during a buyout.
The Westlake Village producer of vegetables and fruits went private in 2013 when Murdock bought the 60 percent of the company he didn’t own for $13.50 a share. In the decision Thursday, a Delaware Chancery Court judge found that Murdock and former Dole chief operating officer Michael Carter made false disclosures to keep the deal on track. The bogus information included "lowball management projections" and inaccurate financial information to drive down Dole's stock price.
Murdock and Carter are personally liable for the $148 million, which represents $2.74 of incremental value for each Dole share. In May, the Los Angeles Business Journal estimated Murdock’s net worth at $3.3 billion.
According to media reports, Dole declined to comment on the suit.
In the 106-page opinion, the court found that Dole president David DeLorenzo and the company's financial advisor Deutsche Bank Securities were not liable to shareholders.