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Famed San Francisco Confectioner Sold to Owner of Marshmallow Business

March 5, 1996

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Ghirardelli Chocolate Co., the upscale sweet maker and a San Francisco tourist mainstay, has changed hands for the third time in 10 years.

The company said Monday it has been bought Dallas-based Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst Inc., an investment company that owns the Campfire Marshmallow business, one of the best-known brands of marshmallows.

The purchase price wasn’t disclosed. But the sale should be final in April, said Ghirardelli spokeswoman Tinka Gordon.

Ghirardelli, founded in 1852, has become a leading purveyor of high-quality chocolate confections, with five retail outlets in California, including Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf area, and one in Chicago.

The company has an industrial division that sells chocolate chips, coatings and cocoas to commercial bakers and the specialty coffee industry.

Ghirardelli has been owned by the Boston-based venture capital firm of Thomas H. Lee Co. since 1992, when it acquired the company from Quaker Oats Co., which acquired it from the De Domenico family in 1986.

C. Dean Metropoulus, head of a Hicks Muse management affiliate, will chair Ghirardelli, said partner John R. Muse.

Ghirardelli fits in with the company’s ``growing portfolio of food product companies,″ Muse said. Besides Campfire Marshmallows, the company’s other famous confection brand is Angela Marie’s rice crispie treats.

Last week, Hicks Muse sold its interest in G. Heilman Brewing Co. to the Stroh Brewery Co.

In January, Hicks Muse chairman Thomas O. Hicks bought the Dallas Stars National Hockey League team.

Hicks Muse has offices in Dallas, New York, St. Louis, and Mexico City.

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