As expected, bankrupt Bumble Bee Foods sold itself to an affiliate of long-time partner FCF Co. Ltd., a worldwide producer and distributor of seafood products, for $928 million. The transaction closed on Jan. 31.
Bumble Bee, one of the big three tuna canners, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last Nov. 21. The canned tuna business hasn't been that good, but what pushed Bumble Bee over the edge was its $25 million fine from the U.S. Dept. of Justice for fixing tuna prices along with Chicken of the Sea and Starkist.
Bumble Bee noted in its Nov. 21 filing its indebtedness has ballooned due to recent "significant legal challenges,” a reference not only to its 2017 guilty plea to Dept. of Justice but also to civil lawsuits related to that case, according to reports, although it settled some last year with foodservice/distributors Sysco and U.S. Foods. The Nov. 21 filing also indicated a sale to FCF Fishery was likely.
Taiwan-based FCF Fishery was its largest creditor. FCF's original bid included $275 million in cash and $638.5 million in debt, according to CNBC.com. Lion Capital, a London-based private-equity firm, bought Bumble Bee in 2010 for $980 million.
Bumble Bee was nearly acquired in 2015 by Thai Union Group Public Co. Ltd., but that deal was terminated because of anti-trust objections by the U.S. Dept. of Justice. Thai Union already owns Chicken of the Sea.
StarKist in September agreed to pay the maximum fine of $100 million for conspiring with its two competitors to keep prices for canned tuna artificially high from 2011 to 2013.