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Reuters News Service reports that Yankee Candle Co. up for sale

Reuters News Service reported Wednesday that the largest candle company in America is preparing a sale with the help of Barclays and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The candle maker is owned by a Chicago investment firm, Madison Dearborn Partners, which bought it for $1.6 billion in 2006.

News reports indicate the possible sale is in its early stages.

A Yankee spokesperson declined to comment Wednesday.

What another sale would mean for the company is unknown, although previous sales tended to cast a pall of uncertainty over its future in the county.

This year, Yankee Candle paid $228,027 in property taxes to Deerfield, where it owns eight parcels of land for its corporate offices, flagship store and warehouses.

It also paid $117,987 in property taxes to Whately, home of its 209,000-square-foot factory.

Yankee Candle employs 1,500 people in Franklin County and 6,000 nationwide, and for decades has annually given the two host towns thousands of dollars in gifts including scholarships and emergency vehicles.

Yankee “is a staple of the area,” said Whately Selectman Jonathan Edwards. “A lot of Whately residents are employed there. I hope whoever purchases Yankee Candle would be as good a neighbor as previous owners. I hope it won’t lead to changes in any local operations.”

Yankee Candle was founded in 1969 by Michael Kittredge, who years after he sold his company helped found Kringle Candle Co. in Bernardston in 2009 with his son, Michael Kittredge III.

As the original owners, the younger Kittredge said Wednesday, his family always holds Yankee Candle “close to their hearts” despite the competition between the two scented candle makers.

He said he understands the apprehension people might have.

“It’s concerning for the local economy,” Kittredge said. “When a company is traded, it becomes less about the people working there. I’m not saying that would happen, but it’s common. Companies try to move production to create efficiencies, cut costs or grow sales.”

Michael Kittredge created Yankee Candle out of his home in Holyoke. In 1983, Kittredge opened the flagship store and factory complex in South Deerfield, and the business continued to grow worldwide.

In 1998 he sold 90 percent of the equity in his company to investment firm Forstmann Little & Co., which took Yankee Candle public a year later.

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