(March 26) WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — Dole Food Co. Inc. will go private after stockholders approved chief executive officer David Murdock’s proposal to pay $33.50 a share for the 76% of the company’s stock that he and his affiliates don’t already own.

The vote, announced March 26, came after Murdock’s earlier offer of $29.50 per share was rebuffed. He agreed to the $4 per share increase in December, and stockholders holding about 70% of the shares not owned by him or his affiliates approved the new offer.

In a company statement, Murdock said he was pleased with the outcome. Dole officials believe the $2.5 billion transaction will be final on March 28 after completion of the necessary financing.

Votes in favor of the merger totaled 43.3 million shares, or 77% of the outstanding shares. Votes against the merger totaled 386,514 shares. Holders of 29,967 shares did not vote.

Murdock has been chairman and chief executive officer of Dole, which had 2002 revenues of $4.4 billion, since 1985.