Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Stephens sells Viking Range Corp. ahead of tax rise

Posted By on Wed, Jan 2, 2013 at 6:45 AM

I mentioned a rush to do year-end business deals. Here's one that got done in the final hours of 2012.

The Little Rock-based Stephens Group has sold its controlling interest in Viking Range Corp as part of a sale of the company to Middleby Corp. for $380 million.

Stephens invested in the company 20 years ago and it has flourished since. It has been mentioned as a takeover target before

I got a tip last week that the deal was in the works and inquired at Stephens, but was told there was nothing to announce. Announcements came New Year's Eve. The deal includes the Greenwood, Miss., manufacturer, its cooking schools and its AlluvianHotel there.

If my tip on the sale was correct — and it was — I suspect accuracy, too, for the tip that an urgency to complete the deal was related to expected action in Congress on a tax increase bill.

Passage of the bill means an increase in the capital gains tax on sale of long-term assets in 2013.

The tax rate on capital gains will increase from 15 to 20 percent and there's an additional 3.8 percent surcharge for Medicaid for high income taxpayers on certain investment income. This produces, effectively, a 23.8 percent capital gains tax rate versus a 15 percent rate previously. It is a significant bump, needless to say. I think it is also safe to say Stephens boss Warren Stephens makes somewhere north of $250,000, where the Medicaid surcharge kicks in, and $450,000, where the basic capital gains tax rate kicks in.

Fred Carl Jr., founder of Viking and also a shareholder, will continue as CEO for a period of time, news accounts say.

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