Life Is a Box of Chocolates for Russell Stover on Lindt Buyout

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Swiss chocolate maker Lindt & Sprungli announced a deal to buy Russell Stover Candies today, the third-largest U.S. chocolate manufacturer behind Hershey (HSY) and M&M Mars.

No price for the private transaction has been disclosed but estimates suggest the deal was for $1.4 billion. The deal is expected to close in August or September and generate combined North American sales of $1.5 billion in 2015. Lindt, which sells under the Ghirardelli and Lindt brands, is looking to increase its influence in the high-end U.S. chocolate market.

The Lindt purchase of Russell is its largest to date and shows the importance the Swiss chocolate maker is placing on the U.S. market, which last year generated almost 30% of its total revenue.

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Russell began in 1923 in the home of Russell and Clara Stover in Denver, Colo. They opened their first store in December of that year, selling 120 pounds of chocolate and raising $90 the first day. Its three brands -- Russell Stover, Whitman's, and Pangburn's -- account for more than 60% of all U.S. boxed chocolate sales.

Tom Hanks brought even more attention to Russell in the 1994 movie, "Forrest Gump." The box of chocolates that Hanks refers to in his memorable "Life was like a box of chocolates" quote in the movie is a box of Russell's chocolate pralines.

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