Chicago’s Crown family, Baird team up for Chinese ‘fridge truck deal

By Becky Yerak 

Chicago’s billionaire Crown family and Baird Private Equity have teamed up to invest in a Chinese maker of refrigerated trucks, saying they expect rising income levels and greater food safety demands in the country to drive the need for such vehicles.

 The family is making the investment through CC Industries, its private equity arm, and one of the companies in its portfolio. CC’s holdings consist of businesses in the transportation and food processing equipment industries, including Chicago-based Great Dane a 110-year old manufacturer of refrigerated trailers and truck bodies.

 Terms weren’t disclosed.

Founded in 1993, Henan Bingxiong Refrigerated Truck Co., also called Ice Bear, will use the new capital from CC and Baird to expand plants in Henan and Shanghai.

 The companies said that, in China, most perishable foods are shipped by non-refrigerated trucks.  They cited estimates that 20 percent to 40 percent of food transported  there ends up getting spoiled.

 Rising income levels and higher food safety demands by both the Chinese government and Chinese consumers are expected to drive the need for refrigerated trucks, the companies said.

“Our leading market position in the refrigerated truck and trailer market will allow us to bring enormous resources to Ice Bear, and help them capitalize on the growing need for cold” transportation methods in China,” Great Dane Chief Executive Bill Crown said in a statement.

Brett Tucker, partner for Baird Capital Partners Asia, part of the private-equity unit of Milwaukee-based Robert W. Baird & Co., said his firm and Great Dane have spent three years looking for such opportunities in China.

As part of the deal, Dean Engelage, executive vice president of Great Dane, and Baird’s Tucker will join the Ice Bear board of directors.

 Twitter: @beckyyerak

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