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Icahn sells half his stake in Hain Celestial

Hain Celestial chief executive Irwin Simon in the

Hain Celestial chief executive Irwin Simon in the company's Melville location. (Oct. 5, 2009) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp, 2009

Activist investor Carl Icahn, the largest shareholder in natural foods maker Hain Celestial Group, has sold roughly half his 15.2 percent stake in the company.

Icahn and his related companies have sold 3,650,000 shares of common stock in the Lake Success company to investment bank Jefferies LLC, Hain said in a news release Tuesday. Jefferies will resell the shares; Hain will not realize any proceeds from the share offering.

Hain's shares dipped on the news of Icahn's sale, falling $2.23 to $79.65 in after-hours trading Tuesday. The company's stock had closed up 10 cents to $81.88 in regular trading.

Icahn has been a shareholder for about 31/2 years, according to Hain. When he began buying shares, the stock price was around $20, said Hain chief executive Irwin Simon, who described the share sale as a "win-win" for both the company and Icahn.

Given the rise in the company's share price, "Like any shareholder, they have profited here very, very handsomely," Simon said. "There's nothing wrong with ringing the cash register and taking money off the table. . . . It speaks for what the company has been able to do."

After Tuesday's announced sale, Icahn will own 3,589,963 shares, or 7.5 percent, of Hain, according to the company. As of June 30, the second-largest institutional shareholder in Hain, after Icahn, was money management firm BlackRock, with 4.1 million shares, according to Bloomberg data.

Icahn didn't say why he was halving his stake. SungHwan Cho, chief financial officer of Manhattan-based Icahn Enterprises, declined to comment.

Hain makes products such as Celestial Seasonings tea, Earth's Best organic baby food and Terra chips. Its stock is up more than 50 percent since early January, as the company posted two straight quarters of record sales.

In August, the company reported fourth-quarter sales of $463.5 million, a 32 percent increase over the same quarter in 2012. Profits were up 11 percent, rising to $26 million.

Last week, Hain was named one of Fortune magazine's 100 fastest-growing public companies.

Brett Icahn, Carl Icahn's son, and David Schechter, also representing Icahn LLP, both sit on Hain's board.

Icahn and his representatives, Simon said, weighed in on managing expenses and growing the company. Although Icahn is known for clashing with management at companies, Simon said his opinions at Hain were "very normal operating board stuff, nothing controversial" or of an activist nature.

With Carrie Mason-Draffen

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