Company sells Wis. milk plant after court order

Bryan Cohen Aug. 16, 2011, 1:37pm

Van Hollen

MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) - Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced on Monday that Dean Foods Company has sold its Waukesha, Wis., milk processing plant as a result of a court order in a federal antitrust case.

Dean Foods sold its Waukesha Golden Guernsey milk processing plant to OpenGate Capital after Judge J.P. Stadtmueller of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin issued a final judgment ordering the saleThe antitrust case against the company was brought by the states of Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The case and the March judgment resulted from a challenge to Dean Foods' 2009 acquisition of the Waukesha plant and other milk processing plants from Foremost Farms USA. The lawsuit alleged that the company's ownership of the plant presented serious antitrust concerns and could adversely affect the price of milk for school districts, retails and other purchasers through Wisconsin.

"I am committed to protecting consumers by ensuring vigorous competition among milk processors," Van Hollen said. "I am pleased that this sale will preserve milk processing competition in southeastern Wisconsin by introducing a new competitor capable of serving grocery stores, convenience stores, schools, and other milk retailers throughout Wisconsin."

Dean Foods Company, based in Dallas, is the largest U.S. processor and distributor of milk and other dairy products. The complaint alleged that after the company acquired the Waukesha plant and other assets, it had a large portion of the fluid-milk sales in Wisconsin, upper Michigan and Illinois. According to the complaint, the company's acquisition deprived school districts and retailers of the benefits of substantial head-to-head competition between Dean Foods and Foremost Farms.

Foremost Farms is a member-owned business association headquartered in Baraboo, Wisconsin. In 2008, its division of consumer products had net sales of $233.7 million. Before Dean Foods acquired the division, Foremost processed its members' raw milk at its plants in De Pere and Waukesha, Wis.

As the new owner of the Waukesha plant, OpenGate capital will acquire all the Waukesha plant assets, including the right to market its products under the La Vaca Bonita and Golden Guernsey brands. The final judgment also requires Dean Foods to notify the U.S. Department of Justice and Van Hollen 30 days before the company acquires any milk processing plant in the state or within 150 miles of its borders that is valued at more than $3 million.

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