Ingham family sells after more than 90 years

The country's biggest poultry producer, Ingham Enterprises, has been sold to TPG for about $880 million in a deal that puts the empire founded in south-west Sydney under the control of private equity.

The country's biggest poultry producer, Ingham Enterprises, has been sold to TPG for about $880 million in a deal that puts the empire founded in south-west Sydney under the control of private equity.

After 94 years in the hands of the Ingham family, the chicken empire has been bought by the global equity firm whose other investments in Australia include energy group Alinta and Healthscope. TPG outbid rivals including Blackstone, Affinity and Chinese agribusiness company New Hope.

Ingham patriarch Bob Ingham and his family will retain a vast property portfolio and a small racing business. Combined with Ingham Enterprises, the assets were estimated to be worth about $1 billion. Mr Ingham, the sole shareholder in Ingham Enterprises, said in a statement that he was excited to "see the business embarking on its next stage of growth under the ownership of TPG".

TPG Capital's Asian boss Ben Gray said the company was "privileged to be buying a great Australian business from a great Australian businessman".

Ingham chief executive Kevin McBain will continue to have control over the day-to-day operations of the poultry company, whose assets include factories, farms and a distribution network.

Ingham was put up for sale in July and its advisers did consider floating the business before opting for a trade sale despite market conditions improving in recent months. Mr Ingham was understood to have wanted a quick outcome and certainty - something a float would not have entailed.

The chicken producer had annual revenue of $2.2 billion last year. It employs almost 9000 staff in Australia and New Zealand.

Ingham Enterprises and its patriarch have managed to retain a low public profile for years despite the size of the business and its influence on food supply.

Between them Inghams and fellow supplier Baiada control more than 70 per cent of the Australian chicken market.

Despite its size, little financial data about Ingham has been available because an existing exemption from filing annual accounts was preserved when corporate reporting rules were changed in 1995.

Mr Ingham, 81, and his late brother Jack built the business started by their father Walter Ingham in 1918, when he bought a 17-hectare farm in Sydney's south-west. The sale deed was signed on Saturday but some conditions have to be settled before the deal is closed.