(May 24) Corrugated box producer Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., Chicago, will sell its consumer packaging division to a Texas investment firm.

Smurfit-Stone announced May 11 it had entered into a definitive agreement to sell the division for about $1 billion to Texas Pacific Group, Fort Worth, according to a Smurfit-Stone news release. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of the second quarter.

The division has about 6,600 employees worldwide, four mills for coated recycled boxboard and 39 consumer packaging converting operations in the U.S., and one consumer packaging converting operation in Canada.

The packaging converting operations make folding cartons, multiwall and specialty bags, flexible packaging, labels and laminated products.

Calls to Smurfit-Stone were not returned.

In the news release, Patrick Moore, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, said the sale improves Smurfit-Stone’s financial flexibility by allowing it to reduce debt. Moore said that John Riconosciuto, Smurfit-Stone’s chief operating officer, will leave the company to become the chief executive officer of Texas Pacific Group’s new consumer packaging business.

Riconosciuto said in the release that the sale of the packaging division would pave the way for product innovations.

Smurfit-Stone’s latest product for fresh produce is a line of boxes for the fresh-cut industry.

The company's VPS display-ready boxes are now being used for bagged salads, fresh-cut melons and other fresh-cut products, said Mike McLeod, national VPS manager for produce marketing, who called the VPS the strongest one-piece package on the market. The boxes can be designed to open on the top, side or end, he said. The boxes come in a variety of depths, as well.

In February, Smurfit-Stone and Dallas-based Texas Instruments Inc. introduced a radio frequency identification tag that is printed on corrugated boxes. The labels are projected to cost about 10 cents. A typical RFID label costs about 15 to 20 cents.