The Jewish Advocate

April 18, 2014 Edition

Affiliate of Bain Capital purchases matzah maker

CEO: Deal won’t change Manischewitz

By Susie Davidson

Special to the Advocate


Manischewitz Company, which counts the offerings above among its kosher products, has been sold to Sankaty Advisors, an affiliate of Bain Capital LLC.

Manischewitz’s Twitter feed was abuzz last week. The company that Bubbe trusted – which has provided products for countless Seder and holiday tables – has been sold to Sankaty Advisors, an independently managed credit affiliate of Bain Capital LLC.

#Manischewitz is #sold to investment firm but will continue to make Kosher products,” tweeted #Matzo maker. “Is Kosher the new Organic? Bain Capital seems to think so,” tweeted @ConsolidatedNws as well. And @Kwarnercohen co lamented, “On #Passover Eve, #Manischewitz Gobbled Up By #Bain Capital #myemotionalbrandattachment.” Israel News, @IsraelNewsNow, also posted, “#kosherforPassover Manischewitz Company sold to equity firm.”

Beth Merrick @zazoupr had a more positive outlook: “Kosher is cool! Sold to #MittRomney old firm, #Manischewitz looks beyond Seder table to broaden appeal.”

The announcement that the 126-year-old Manischewitz Company was set to be sold to Sankaty by a group including investment firm Harbinger Capital Partners came in a joint statement released by the two sides. Bain Capital was co-founded by 2012 presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Mark Weinstein, who was hired the previous week as an affiliate of Bain, is now CEO of Manischewitz Company. The April 3 statement released jointly by Manischewitz and Sankaty, datelined from Newark, N.J.-based Manischewitz’s headquarters, came under the headline “Sankaty Advisors invests in Manischewitz, the nation’s largest manufacturer of premium kosher foods.” Manischewitz secured on that date a strategic investment fro

m Sankaty Advisors, which is one of the world’s leading private managers of fixed income and credit instruments.

So, how does that jibe with gefilte fish, borscht, macaroons and blackberry wine?

Manischewitz will continue to always be the premier company on the kosher food market,” said new CEO Weinstein, reached by telephone for an exclusive interview with The Jewish Advocate. “The Manischewitz brand is an iconic and a very important brand, but the brand is rooted in its tradition as a kosher food company, and we will always adhere to that tradition,” he said from his home in Weston. (Weinstein was home for the holiday, but is now based full time in Newark.)

The involvement and resources of a major financial corporation could also increase the viability of the brand, and perhaps even attract consumers outside of the Jewish community. “The hope is to continue to grow both the kosher and non-kosher set in major areas, including Boston,” said Stacey Bender, whose Bender Group PR has handled public relations for Manischewitz’s consumer division for more than 10 years.

That could include a wider distribution of not only the old favorites, but some potentially new favorites as well. “The sale is designed to continue the growth of Manischewitz,” said Bender. “There will be no change in product look or feel – only continued new products.”

Why did Sankaty purchase Manischewitz? “ It was a good business opportunity,” said Weinstein. “Manischewitz is such a great brand, and we have the opportunity to make it even greater.”

Weinstein, a business executive who has often served as CEO for companies in transition, said he has worked with food companies in the past. When asked if this new position might also be transitory, he said, “Maybe, but you never know.”

Weinstein himself is a selfavowed user of Manischewitz products. A New York native, his father, as well as his wife’s family, were originally from Boston. He said that no regional offices in the Boston area are being planned.

The matzah is being made the same way,” Weinstein stressed. “Nothing will change.” He added, however, that the company might offer kosher products to other markets now.

It is not an insignificant purchase for Sankarty. Manischewitz is the No. 1 baker of matzah in the world, producing hundreds of additional, ever-evolving kosher foods found on the shelves of major supermarkets and specialty-food purveyors throughout North America and the world. Categories include baked goods, pastas, soups, gefilte fish, sardines and borscht under not just the Manischewitz label, but also Rokeach, Mishpacha, Season, Guiltless Gourmet and others.

The press release forwarded by Bender quoted Yaakov Horowitz of the Orthodox Union, who is head rabbi at Manischewitz: “ This transaction will allow Manischewitz to continue its storied tradition of producing the highest-quality kosher products, which have delighted consumers the world over for more than 125 years,” he said. “ It will also enable the company to maintain its position as the world’s most iconic purveyor of kosher food.”

Manischewitz began in 1888 as a small matzah bakery in Cincinnati. The company changed hands a few times until 2008, when, following an investment from hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners, the company that was founded by Rabbi Dov Behr Manischewitz reclaimed the family name.

Behr Manischewitz was also quoted in the press release: “The Manischewitz group of brands are a large part of the social fabric of the global Jewish and kosher community, and they continue to represent [its] innovation and spirit,” he said.

A visit to Manischewitz’s website reveals many new products reflecting dietary trends such as low-sodium, gluten-free, low-fat, natural, and high-fiber offerings, as well as new gourmet and specialized selections.

Sankaty Advisors also lauded the famed kosher empire in a prepared statement. “This investment reflects our confidence in the Manischewitz brands and team,” it said. “Manischewitz has earned a position as one of the most highly recognized brands in the world, and it has distinguished itself through a passionate commitment to producing the highest-quality kosher products possible. We believe Manischewitz is well positioned to grow, due to rising mainstream interest in kosher foods.”

2014-04-18 / Top News