North Castle Partners to Sell Avalon Natural Products to the Hain Celestial Group

GREENWICH, Conn., Dec 18, 2006 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- North Castle Partners, L.L.C., announced today a definitive agreement to sell Avalon Natural Products, Inc., including its Avalon Organics(R) and Alba Botanica(R) natural and organic personal care brands, to The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (HAIN) for $120 million in cash. Avalon is a leader in the natural products category in the areas of skin care, hair care, bath and body and sun care.

The sale of Avalon, combined with the pending sale of Naked Juice Company to PepsiCo and the completed sales of Equinox Fitness and CRC Health, marks the fourth announced realization for North Castle Partners in 2006. North Castle Partners is a private equity firm focused exclusively on consumer businesses that benefit from "Healthy Living and Aging" trends, with significant experience with companies in the personal care industry.

Richard D. Gersten, a North Castle Managing Director and developer of the firm's Aesthetics and Personal Care business said, "Avalon was a terrific investment for North Castle. Having recruited a world-class management team to successfully execute our investment blueprint, we have complete confidence that Hain Celestial is a natural partner to help Avalon achieve its next stage of growth and development. Hain Celestial has purchased a great business with an outstanding team."

Gil Pritchard, CEO of Avalon, said, "We have had a great partnership with North Castle that has included a set of shared values such as integrity, trust and respect. Avalon has benefited from the knowledge and network provided by North Castle, its Operating Advisors and its portfolio companies but now it is the right time for us to align with Hain Celestial as we plan for our exciting future."

"The personal care/beauty industry is an important area of focus for North Castle," added Mr. Gersten. "In November, North Castle acquired a controlling interest in Caleel + Hayden, L.L.C., a developer, marketer and distributor of mineral-based cosmetics and high-end skincare products to the professional markets."

"With our knowledge and network in this exciting space we will continue to build North Castle's expertise in the Aesthetics and Personal Care arena, where we currently have investments in Caleel + Hayden, Red Door Spa Holdings, the world's leading owner and operator of full-service salons and day spas, and HDS Cosmetics Lab, Inc., a leading clinical skin care company operating under the brand name Doctor's Dermatologic Formula," Mr. Gersten concluded.
The Blackstone Group acted as the financial advisor to Avalon and North Castle Partners. Morrison Cohen LLP served as legal counsel to the parties.

About The Hain Celestial Group
The Hain Celestial Group (HAIN) , headquartered in Melville, N.Y., is a leading natural and organic food and personal care products company in North America and Europe. Hain Celestial participates in almost all natural food categories with well-known brands that include Celestial Seasonings(R), Terra Chips(R), Garden of Eatin'(R), Health Valley(R), WestSoy(R), Earth's Best(R), Arrowhead Mills(R), DeBoles(R), Hain Pure Foods(R), FreeBird(TM), Hollywood(R), Spectrum Naturals(R), Spectrum Essentials(R), Walnut Acres Organic(TM), Imagine Foods(TM), Rice Dream(R), Soy Dream(R), Rosetto(R), Ethnic Gourmet(TM), Yves Veggie Cuisine(R), Linda McCartney(R), Lima(R), Grains Noirs(R), Natumi(R), JASON(R), Zia(R) Natural Skincare and Queen Helene(R). For more information, visit

About North Castle Partners
North Castle Partners is a leading private equity firm focused exclusively on investments in consumer-driven product and service businesses that benefit from "Healthy Living and Aging" trends. North Castle is a hands-on, value- added investor in high-growth, middle market companies in the (i) aesthetics & personal care, (ii) consumer health, (iii) fitness & recreation, (iv) home & leisure and (v) nutrition industries.

North Castle is led by a seasoned group of five partners and supported by eight additional private equity professionals. The North Castle team is further enhanced by nine proactive operating advisors who bring a wide range of operational and investment capabilities as well as an extensive knowledge base and network. The strength of the North Castle team, combined with our focus and network, is creating significant competitive advantages in building world-class companies. North Castle is headquartered in Greenwich, CT. For more information, visit

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