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KKR makes Midwestern retail move


Global investment firm KKR’s name is usually associated with large deals, but that’s not the case with it latest acquisition of a small Midwestern chain that looks a lot like Tractor Supply.

KKR and Mills Fleet Farm reached a definitive purchase agreement that will see the global investment firm become the new owner of the operator of 35 outdoor lifestyle and farm stores located in Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota. A purchase price was not disclosed, but KKR said it planned to invest significantly in the business to add stores and supporting infrastructure.

Founded in 1955 by Stewart Mills Sr. along with his sons, Henry Mills II and Stewart Mills Jr., Mills Fleet Farm offers national brand and private-label goods on a full-service basis, including fishing and hunting products, auto parts, farm and pet supplies, home improvement and home living goods, clothing and footwear, toys and food. Some stores sell gas, have car washes and provide auto services.

“We have decided to partner with KKR in order to take Mills Fleet Farm to the next level of growth for the future,” according to a statement attributed to company Co-Presidents Henry Mills II and Stewart Mills, Jr. “We took great care in our approach to finding the right partner who shared our values and would preserve the legacy the Mills family has built after serving the Midwest over the last 60 years. We truly believe KKR is the best fit for us organizationally and also the best fit for our employees.”

KKR’s Nate Taylor, a member of the firm’s private equity team, characterized Mills Fleet Farm as a highly differentiated brand and alluded to further investments to support growth.

“We remain committed to Mills Fleet Farm’s founding values – and those shared by KKR – of honesty, integrity, hard work, service and loyalty to our customers and partners. We anticipate investing significantly in the business, adding infrastructure, stores and local jobs,” Taylor said.

KKR’s other notable retail investments include Academy Sports and Outdoors, Toys “R” Us and Boots Alliance which the company sold to Walgreens.

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