1988 - Buyout saved Celestial; deal collapsed for hotel
Herbal tea-maker Celestial Seasonings had been sold to Kraft Foods Inc. in 1984 and became part of the food giant’s newly created Venture Group. That group also had acquired frozen-food lines Tombstone Pizza, Lender’s Bagels and Budget Gourmet, and when the Venture Group turned into the Frozen-Foods Group, Celestial didn’t fit.
Kraft had two choices: Either integrate the tea as a brand name or sell the company. Kraft decided to sell. In late 1987, it announced it would marry Celestial to Lipton, a conventional tea-maker — prompting then-president Barney Feinblum to talk with investment bankers about matching Lipton and buying back the company.
The Celestial-Lipton betrothal also caught the attention of both the Federal Trade Commission and R.C. Bigelow, a Lipton rival. Bigelow, arguing that Lipton’s acquisition of Celestial would give Lipton a stranglehold on the raw herb market, was able to temporarily block the sale, which ultimately saved Celestial from becoming just another Lipton brand and perhaps leaving Boulder.
In September, Kraft sold to Feinblum et. al. Celestial went public in 1993 and merged with Hain Food Group, a natural and specialty foods manufacturer.
Meanwhile, developer Sina Simantob wanted to build a $29 million hotel on a 2.8-acre site at Ninth Avenue and Canyon Boulevard — but scandal broke. Simantob and Philippe Joel De Mirza, a world-class drug smuggler, had partnered to purchase Gold Lake Ranch, west of Boulder, in the 1970s. In mid-1988, when DeMirza stood trial in Miami on a myriad of charges, Simantob testified about the Gold Lake deal.
When news of the association broke, Simantob’s chances to get the go-ahead from the city to develop the hotel were calculated at slim to none even though he had done nothing illegal. But on Dec. 2, Simantob, his partner Chet Winter and Barry McComic, a San Diego hotel financier, hammered out a deal with the city that made the site and adjoining streets part of a tax-increment financing district. However, the late 1980s real-estate recession in California hampered McComic’s involvement in the project, and the Sheraton hotel backers moved on.
Today, the site is home to the St. Julien Hotel and Spa.