Bio-Rad founder dies, stock soars on sale spec

In the non-investor world, folks usually take time to mourn someone's death. However, that doesn't appear to be the case with Bio-Rad Laboratories ($BIO), a company that makes diagnostics and life sciences research-related equipment.

Company co-founder and Chairman David Schwartz died April 1 at age 88. The Hercules, CA-based company issued a respectful statement a day later, noting that Schwartz founded Bio-Rad in 1952 with his wife Alice, and under his leadership "Bio-Rad continued to broaden its product lines and expand its geographical markets."

But as Bloomberg reports, investors are having a field day over speculation that the company may be willing to sell itself to a suitable bidder. The stock price soared more than 11% on Tuesday, to $114.25, as the story notes, and the price remained high in trading early Wednesday. (Was the body even cold yet?)

Here's the drama behind the story: Bio-Rad remains a family-run company, but some investors clearly want this situation to change. That may not be an easy thing to accomplish, however. Bio-Rad Treasurer Ron Hutton told Bloomberg that the company isn't for sale, and he expects the family would continue its involvement even though Schwartz has passed away. Also, at least one expert told Bloomberg that long-term investors likely aren't interested in selling the company. Importantly, the family also still controls a majority of Bio-Rad's voting shares. But other investors and some industry observers don't believe for a minute that the company won't be sold, Dougherty & Co. analyst Junaid Husain told the news service.  

"The prevailing wisdom is that the day David Schwartz passes away is the day this company is in play," Husain is quoted as saying in the Bloomberg story. Also, current CEO Norman Schwartz, (David Schwartz's son) is thought to be more agreeable to selling the company than his father was, Husain added.

So who would buy the company? Husain speculates that Life Technologies ($LIFE) might be a suitable bidder for Bio-Rad. It would be quite a catch. Bio-Rad has 7,000 employees around the world and more than $2 billion in 2011 sales, according to the company.

(Photo of Mr. Schwartz courtesy of Bio-Rad)

- here's the Bloomberg story
- consider Bio-Rad's announcement of their founder's passing