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    White Hen Goes to Holding Company, Managers' Group

    Former parent company CEO Barnholt among new owners.

    CHICAGO -- White Hen Pantry Inc. closed Friday on its sale to a holding company and managers of the convenience store company , including Brandon Barnholt, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune. Barnholt is former CEO and president of Clark Retail Enterprises Inc., which had purchased White Hen four years ago.

    White Hen announced it completed the sale to Angelo, Gordon & Co., based in New York, and White Hen managers. The deal raised $45 million in the liquidation of Oak Brook, Ill.-based Clark, which filed for bankruptcy a year ago and has been engaged since May in an auction of its assets.

    Barnholt was quoted in the Chicago Tribune as saying that sales results in the past year did not support a $90 million valuation of the chain, as some observers had put it.

    Clark purchased White Hen in 1999 for about $80 million, and subsequently sold 55 New England stores. White Hen, a 38-year-old Chicago company, now consists of 225 stores in the area.

    The first attempt to sell White Hen stumbled. "We pulled back the offering and then went back to the market with a more targeted sale," said Barnholt, according to the /Chicago Tribune.

    White Hen never experienced financial difficulties, but former parent company Clark Retail Enterprises once operated more than 600 convenience stores and gasoline stations in the nine-state Midwest region, before filing for bankruptcy protection. All Clark locations have been sold, but the name will live on. A separate company is buying the licensing program, according to Barnholt, the newspaper reported.

    "A year from now, the number of the stores might be in the 235 to 240 range, while long term, the city has the capacity for 300-plus stores," he said, according to the news report.

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