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THAI FLAVOR INFLECTS EPICUREAN DEAL Robert Stein, a name partner at Stein & Lubin in San Francisco, speaks just enough Thai to get around Bangkok and negotiate a fare with Tuk-tuk drivers. But those limited language skills still came in handy when he advised longtime client Epicurean International Inc. in the sale of its business to McCormick & Co. for $97 million. Union City-based Epicurean International is the largest importer, packager and distributor of Thai and other Asian food products sold under the Thai Kitchen and Simply Asia brands. “It was a transaction that involved a lot of cultural issues,” said Stein, who first came to Thailand 40 years ago as a high school foreign exchange student. “We did the due diligence with corporate people in Shanghai, Beijing and Bangkok and we worked with a Thai law firm with some of the issues.” The sale included all of the assets related to both brands in the United States, China and Thailand. The 50-employee company, which was founded in 1989, has a commanding 59 percent market share in the Asian food segment with more than 100 products sold at major supermarkets and natural food stores nationwide. McCormick, the world’s largest manufacturer of spices and seasonings, had sales of nearly $2.6 billion in 2005. Stein, who has been acting as Epicurean’s general counsel over the last four years, said his familiarity with the Thai language and culture gave him a decided advantage in negotiating the sale. His firm’s experience with handling acquisitions for small and midsized businesses also gave him a leg up, he said. “I think what we really do well as a firm is translating the issues that are important to entrepreneurs and making publicly held corporations understand and appreciate those issues,” Stein said. “We are mostly known as a real estate firm but a large part of our practice is representing small and midsized nonpublic companies.” Of counsel Audrey Baker helped Stein in the deal and Jeffrey O’Connell, a partner at Shartsis Friese, handled the intellectual property aspect of the transaction. McCormick was represented by Theodore Segal, a partner at DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary in Washington, D.C.

Xenia P. Kobylarz

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