Smurfits back £2bn private equity bid

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Madison Dearborn is the private equity house behind a £2bn takeover bid for Irish paper and packaging group Jefferson Smurfit, and the US outfit has the backing of the Smurfit family.

Under the proposed terms of the transaction, Michael Smurfit, the group's chairman, and his brothers Dermot and Alan, the deputy chairmen, and his son Tony, the chief operating officer, would stay at the business. Talks are said to be at an advanced stage.

The offer from Madison would be the largest deal in Irish corporate history. It would see the Smurfit family – one of Ireland's wealthiest – net about £200m for their shares.

Madison already owns five paper and packaging companies, and would not keep the group's 29.5 per cent stake in Smurfit Stone Container Corporation, its US associate. The shares in SSCC are expected to be given to Jefferson Smurfit investors as a special dividend, thuscutting the value of the Irish group from more than £2bn to about £1.5bn.

Observers expect Madison to bring in a co-investor: it rarely invests more than £300m in any single transaction.