Bay Area Clif Bar billionaires reap 2,400% gain by rebuffing early buyout

By Josephine Walker | Bloomberg

Gary Erickson was offered a tantalizing sum from Quaker Oats in 2000 to sell Clif Bar & Co., his upstart energy-bar maker: $120 million.

He walked away. As the company’s website put it: “CLIF Is Not For Sale.”

Twenty-two years later, that calculus has changed. Erickson and his wife, Kit Crawford, this week accepted a $2.9 billion buyout from snack giant Mondelez International Inc. Once completed, the acquisition will catapult the California-based couple into the class of self-made billionaires.

By rebuffing the earlier offer and taking Mondelez’s deal, Erickson and Crawford have banked a 2,400% gain from keeping the energy-bar company family and employee owned since the turn of the century. They extended 20% of their shares to workers as a retirement benefit in 2010, while retaining the remaining 80%.

The couple’s combined stake would be worth about $2.3 billion before taxes, though federal and state capital gains taxes would reduce their windfall to $1.55 billion. The family also operates White Road Investments, a sustainable venture capital firm, and an organic winery and farm in California’s Napa Valley.

Erickson and Crawford didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Mondelez, the Chicago-based maker of Oreos and Cadbury chocolates, said that Clif will continue operating from its headquarters in Emeryville, California, and will also keep its facilities in Indianapolis and Twin Falls, Idaho.

Erickson has said he got inspiration for a better tasting energy bar after a 175-mile bike ride, spending six months in his mother’s kitchen to find the first recipe for his flagship Clif Bar, named after his father Clifford. Its brands have expanded to include Luna, which is aimed at women, and Clif Kid for children.

Erickson and Crawford named Sally Grimes, formerly a group president at Tyson Foods, as chief executive officer in 2020, noting that “her track record for innovative thinking will help take us to the next level.”

“Their focus on the long game is inspiring and offers endless potential,” Grimes said in the statement announcing her as CEO.

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