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Majority stake in St. Petersburg's Catalina to be sold to Berkshire Partners

ST. PETERSBURG — Catalina, a business based here that helps grocery chains and consumer brands inspire customer loyalty, said Boston investment firm Berkshire Partners LLC will acquire majority control of the company from Hellman & Friedman LLC.

The proposed transaction confirms a report in last week's Tampa Bay Times that Berkshire was considering a deal for the 1,350-employee Catalina. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but earlier press reports suggest the seller was seeking close to $2.5 billion.

Hellman & Friedman, based in San Francisco, took Catalina private in 2007 for $1.7 billion. Tuesday's announcement said the investment firm will remain a significant investor in the business.

Catalina, formerly known as Catalina Marketing, is a business steeped in mining so-called "big data" by creating vast databases of individual retail customer product likes, dislikes and other key information for client stores that want to increase their understanding of consumers.

Catalina claims to operate the "largest shopper history database in the world" — and says it can give retailers an edge in building customer loyalty.

"We are attracted to Catalina's unique ability to translate shopper data into personalized media at mass scale," Berkshire Partners managing director Brad Bloom stated.

For example, a recent Catalina study found that shoppers are selective and typically buy on average less than 1 percent of products available on grocery store shelves during a one-year period.

"We believe this transaction is an affirmation of Catalina's growth outlook, strategy and leadership team," said Jamie Egasti, Catalina's CEO.

Citing Tampa Bay's airport and cost of living, Catalina Marketing in 1993 relocated to the bay area from California, bringing 90 jobs. At that time, Catalina was publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange and provided systems that automatically printed coupons at cash registers tailored to specific customer purchases.

Two decades later, Catalina is much more digitally sophisticated, with systems installed in more than 31,000 U.S. grocery, drug, and mass-merchandise chains. The company, based on Carillon Parkway, is also affiliated with more than 16,000 international stores.

Formed in 1984, Berkshire Partners has owned stakes in dozens of diverse companies. It currently owns shares in more than 18 firms ranging from beauty products maker Coty and wireless carrier service plan provider New Asurion to the Farm Boy grocery chain.

Majority stake in St. Petersburg's Catalina to be sold to Berkshire Partners 03/04/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 10:49pm]
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