Troubled tuna seller Bumble Bee files for bankruptcy
Bumble Bee Foods filed for bankruptcy on Thursday, blaming its “recent and significant legal challenges.”
Taiwanese fish supply chain company FCF Co. plans to put in a $925 million bid for the assets. The deal is expected to be completed within 90 days.
Bumble Bee CEO Jan Tharp said in a statement that “it’s been a challenging time for our company,” but the move should allow the brand to continue business as usual.
“Employees will get paid, our customer partners can count on us to continue delivering outstanding brands and services, and vendors will be paid in the ordinary course of business,” he said. In addition to canned tuna, Bumble Bee sells sardines, clam juice and other fish products.
The troubled brand, owned by London-based Lion Capital, was embroiled in a price-fixing scheme that drained its resources. Lion Capital did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the filing.
Major grocery chains, including Walmart, Kroger and Albertsons, sued Bumble Bee, Starkist and the maker of Chicken-of-the-Sea in 2016 for fixing prices. In 2017, Bumble Bee agreed to plead guilty for its role in the conspiracy and to pay a $25 million criminal fine. Last year, a federal grand jury indicted Christopher Lischewski, then the company’s CEO, in connection with a packaged seafood price-fixing scam.
In a court document supporting the filing, Bumble Bee’s Chief Financial Officer Kent McNeil said that the fine, as well as civil litigation and other proceedings stemming from the incident, have led to the “spending tens of millions of dollars in defense costs” that hurt the business.
Bumble Bee’s Canadian affiliate, Connors Bros. Clover Leaf Seafoods Company, is also initiating proceedings according to Canada’s Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.