A New York private equity firm that owns a majority of Salt Lake City-based Huish Detergents Inc. has reached an agreement to purchase the North American laundry business of Unilever and will merge the two companies.

The private-equity firm, Vestar Capital Partners, said Wednesday that the merged company will be called The Sun Products Corp. and will have annual sales of more than $2 billion. The new company will be the No. 2 leader in fabric-care products in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico after Procter & Gamble, Vestar Capital said.

The deal is expected to close during the next couple of months, pending government regulatory review.

"Right now Huish is about $1 billion in annual sales," said Dan Huish, who is chairman of Huish Detergents and will be chairman of Sun Products. "In terms of sales, we're sort of doubling the volume."

Huish founded his company about 30 years ago and now has a minority interest in the company, after Vestar Capital purchased it in March 2007. Huish Detergents manufactures detergents, fabric softeners and dish-care and personal-care products under labels such as Sun and White Rain, as well as private labels for stores including Costco and Wal-Mart. Unilever makes Wisk, Sunlight, Surf and Snuggle brands.

The merger deal specifies that Vestar Capital pay $1.075 billion in cash to Unilever, and that Unilever will receive referred shares of The Sun Products with a face value of $375 million, and warrants offering the opportunity to acquire up to 2.5 percent of the combined common equity in The Sun Products.

The headquarters of the merged company will be in Fairfield County, Conn. The Huish facilities in Salt Lake City will remain intact, and probably will expand, Dan Huish said. About 50 Huish Detergents employees work at offices on South Temple and about 1,100 work at its facility at 3500 West and 2100 South.

Huish also has plants in Tennessee, Texas, Kentucky. Unilever has a plant in Baltimore. Vestar Capital said that a total of about 3,000 employees will work for the merged company.


E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com