The company has been cagey about potential suitors, but media reports citing unnamed sources said on Monday that private equity firm Apollo Global Management and investor C. Dean Metropoulos have formed a group of investors to consider buying the company. Sara Lee shares rose to $18.21 by close of trading on Monday, up from a previous 52-week high of $17.72.
Sara Lee’s future was cast into doubt when CEO Brenda Barnes stepped down in August after suffering a stroke. It remains without a permanent CEO and has been led by interim chief executive Marcel Smits since then.
Other media stories have suggested that Brazilian beef company JBS may also be trying to rescue a potential deal, after it reportedly ran into a disagreement over price last month. But despite persistent rumors Sara Lee and JBS have both refused to comment on speculation about the possible deal, and Sara Lee has also declined to comment on rumors that it turned down a buyout offer from private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR) in October.
It has been suggested that JBS could find it difficult to secure funding due to the similar market capitalization of the two companies however.
Reportedly, Sara Lee has also been mulling the separation of its coffee and meat businesses. The company has been selling off business divisions, including its North American bakery business, which it said it would sell to Mexico-based Grupo Bimbo in November, in order to focus primarily on its core food and beverage businesses.
Last month, the company also agreed to sell its global shoe care business, which includes Kiwi polish, to SC Johnson for $328m.