Natural-gas pipeline operator Kinder Morgan Inc. (KMI) said Monday that a management-led investment group will take the company private in a cash deal worth $15 billion, plus the assumption of $7 billion in debt.

Members of the buyout group include Chairman and Chief Executive Richard D. Kinder, company co-founder Bill Morgan, other members of management and the board of directors, and investment companies Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, American International Group Inc., Carlyle Group and Riverstone Holdings LLC.

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Under terms of the deal, Kinder Morgan shareholders will receive $107.50 for each share of stock they hold.

The offer represents a 5.7 percent premium over the Houston-based company's closing stock price on Friday and a 27 percent premium over the closing price on May 26, the last trading day before the investor group made its proposal.

The company's board of directors has unanimously voted to accept the agreement and, pending shareholder approval, the deal is expected to close at the beginning of 2007.

Richard Kinder, who will continue as chairman and CEO of Kinder Morgan, is expected to reinvest all of his 24 million company shares.

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