Hershey, Godiva chocolates owner Yildiz among bidders for Russell Stover Candies

The auction of US chocolatier Russell Stover Candies has attracted several bidders, including Hershey Co, Godiva chocolates owner Yildiz Holding, and private-equity firms, The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend, citing people familiar with the matter.

Hershey, Godiva chocolates owner Yildiz among bidders for Russell Stover CandiesKansas City, Missouri-based Russell Stover, had hired Goldman Sachs to find a buyer for the 91year-old family-run company, the report said.

Several bidders have submitted first-round offers in excess of $1 billion and a final bid round is due in the coming weeks, the report added.

The third-largest confectioner by sales in the US, Russell Stover, best known for its boxed chocolates, was founded by Russell and Clara Stover who started a candy business in their home in Denver, Colorado. The original candy, marketed as "Mrs. Stover's Bungalow Candies," changed about 20 years later to Russell Stover Candies.

Six years after the death of Russell Stover, Louis Ward, the company's longtime box manufacturer, acquired the company in 1961, which is today run by his sons Tom and Scott Ward.

With well-known brands, including its namesake, as well as Whitman's, Pangburn's, Russell Stover is the third largest US chocolate manufacturer after Hershey and Mars producing nearly 100 million pounds of chocolate annually.

Its three brands, Russell Stover, Whitman's and Pangburn's, account for more than 60 per cent of all boxed chocolate sales in the US.

Its candies are sold in nearly 40 company-owned retail stores and through 70,000 drug stores, card and gift shops, grocery stores, department stores and retail stores in more than 20 countries, including the US, Canada and the UK.

The company, which employs about 4,500 people, has annual sales of around $600 million and earnings of around $60 million.