A rich Texan is bailing out a beloved Texas food brand.
Blue Bell Creameries on July 14 announced that prominent Fort Worth-based investor Sid Bass has become an investor and partner with the company. The size or value of the stake was not publicized, but it should help the Brenham, Texas, ice cream company get back on its feet after it shut down all operations after the April recalls for listeria, which resulted in three deaths.
“We are pleased Sid Bass has made a significant investment with our company," said Paul Kruse, Blue Bell CEO and president. "The additional capital will ensure the successful return of our ice cream to the market and our loyal customers."
Bass is one of four brothers who inherited the fortune of their uncle, oil tycoon Sid Richardson, 40 years ago and have enlarged it with savvy investments in oil, gas, carbon black and recently aerospace. Sid Bass once held a large stake in Walt Disney Co.
“We are excited to be a part of the Blue Bell brand and family” commented Bass in a statement. “Blue Bell is the quality leader in the ice cream industry. We believe quality is the principle attribute that ensures the success, growth and longevity of a business.”
Because of a listeria outbreak in April, Blue Bell shut down all operations and laid off 1,450 employees. But last week, the company notified the U.S. FDA and state health officials in Alabama that it hopes to begin test production of ice cream at its Sylacauga, Ala., facility in the next several weeks.
When production resumes there, it will be on a limited basis as the company seeks to confirm that new procedures, facility enhancements and employee training have been effective. Ice cream produced will be closely monitored and tested. Upon completion of this trial period, Blue Bell will begin building inventory to return to the market.
There is no firm date for the test production to begin, and no firm date for when ice cream sales will resume.
“We have been working diligently to prepare our facilities to resume test production, and our focus throughout this process has been to ensure the public that when our products return to market, they are safe,” said Greg Bridges, vice president of operations. “We are very excited about taking these important first steps as part of the process of getting high-quality Blue Bell products back to consumers.”