Ben Hill Griffin heirs sell controlling interest in citrus company

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The heirs of Ben Hill Griffin, one of Florida’s largest private landowners, are relinquishing control of Alico—the company that controls nearly 131,000 acres of land in five counties—to a pair of New York-based agricultural firms.

It was announced Friday that the companies — 734 Agriculture and Arlon Group — would pay $137.8 million to Atlantic Blue Group, owned by Griffin’s heirs, for controlling shares of the citrus giant, according the Associated Press.

Griffin, for whom the University of Florida stadium is named, made Alico one of the state’s leading businesses. His extended family included several prominent Florida political figures, including Griffin’s granddaughter, former secretary of state Katherine Harris.

As part of the deal, former state Sen. JD Alexander would step down as the Alico’s chief executive. Alexander, a chair of the Senate’s budget committee, was instrumental in the creation of Florida Polytechnic in 2012, the state’s 12th university.

The price paid was $37 a share, according to the AP.

Atlantic Blue announced earlier this year that it would be looking for a buyer because of tax code changes.

Atlantic Blue was created in 2004 as the result of a lawsuit between Ben Hill Griffin III, Griffin’s only son, and families of his daughters: Sarah Alexander, Lucy Anne Collier, Harriet Harris and Francie Milligan. When Ben Hill Griffin Jr. died in 1990, his estate was valued at $300 million.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.