(Aug. 2) RICHMOND, Va. — The nation’s third-largest broadline distributor got a little bit larger, as Richmond-based Performance Food Group announced that it had acquired the Thoms-Proestler Co., a privately owned foodservice distributor based in Rock Island, Ill.

The acquisition brought the number of Performance distribution facilities to 15, from Texas to Florida and up the East Coast as far as Massachusetts. The company also owns extensive fresh-cut operations, including Salinas, Calif.-based Fresh Express Inc. and Franklin Park, Ill.-based Redi-Cut Foods Inc.

“It’s a very good little company,” Eric Larson, an analyst with Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray. “This purchase expands their capabilities in the Upper Midwest, where they hadn’t been before.”

The purchase comes less than a year after Performance had acquired Salinas-based Fresh Express Inc., one of the industry’s largest bagged salad producers, for $302 million.

The Thoms-Proestler purchase is valued at about $95 million.

About $80 million was paid in cash and the assumption of liabilities, while around 500,000 Performance Food common shares were issued for the balance. In addition, the purchase price may be increased by up to $7 million if Thoms-Proestler reaches certain undisclosed sales goals over the next two years.

Thoms-Proestler serves Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois, including Chicago, from a 255,000-square-foot distribution center. It generated sales of about $230 million in 2001. A move into the Midwest was considered crucial in making the purchase, Performance officials said.

“That’s the type of company that we look to acquire when we’re entering a market where we’ve never had a presence,” said C. Michael Gray, Performance’s president and chief executive officer. “Obviously, we want a positive presence when we go there, and (Thoms-Proestler) is one of the most respected companies in the area.”

The corporate and employee structure will not change under the new ownership, said Tom Thoms, chief executive officer of Thoms-Proestler.