The buyer, Vestar Capital Partners, plans to combine the businesses with its Huish Detergents Inc. business that includes the Sun and White Rain brands and call the new company The Sun Products Corp. Huish also makes detergents, fabric softeners, dish care and personal care products under private-label names for major retailers.
Vestar said the new Sun Products company will have annual sales of more than $2 billion.
Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch maker of Dove soaps, Lipton teas and Ben & Jerry's ice cream, said the sale was in line with its strategy of disposing of many of its noncore brands in order to focus on a few larger ones.
Unilever is the largest maker of laundry products in Britain and many developing markets including India and Brazil, but is dwarfed by rival Procter & Gamble Inc. in the United States.
The operations being
sold had sales of around $1 billion in 2007, compared with sales of more than 5 billion euros ($7.8 billion) for its laundry products globally in the same period, Unilever said.--Nina M. Lentini