By Nick Worth
Officials of NatureSweet Ltd. announced March 28 that the United States Bankruptcy Court in Arizona approved the sale of “substantially all of the assets” of EuroFresh Farms to NatureSweet’s subsidiary, Zona Acquisition Company, LLC. The announcement came two months after NatureSweet’s initial Jan. 28 announcement of intent to acquire the assets of the distressed company after EuroFresh filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Jan. 27.
NatureSweet, based in San Antonio, Texas, bought the EuroFresh assets through a “363 sale,” which allows a company filing for bankruptcy to market its assets to buyers with bankruptcy court approval.
EuroFresh and NatureSweet are among the leading producers of fresh tomatoes in North America, and EuroFresh is also a leading grower of greenhouse cucumbers.
“This asset acquisition represents a great opportunity for us to continue growing,” said Bryant Ambelang, CEO of NatureSweet. “It will help further strengthen our position as the leading producer of premium-branded, best tasting tomatoes and enable us to continue providing customers with top-quality products.”
The EuroFresh Farms operations, located in Snowflake and Willcox, employ 1,100 workers. Of that number, 101 work at the Snowflake farm, along with another 100 inmate workers.
At the time of the original announcement, Frank van Straalen, chief financial officer for EuroFresh, said there were no plans to change personnel or operations at the Snowflake farm.
“We will be sharply focused on taking a balanced approach to bringing EuroFresh Farms products and customers into the NatureSweet family,” Ambelang said in the March 28 press release.
In response to questions about the status of the Snowflake facility and employees, following the sale Ambelang said in an April 10 statement that work on finalizing the acquisition of the EuroFresh assets is still underway.
“We continue to work toward finalizing our U.S. Bankruptcy Court-approved acquisition of substantially all of the assets of EuroFresh Farms; and like many transactions of this nature, completing the deal takes time to ensure it is done with the best interests of all parties in mind,” said Ambelang. “As we have noted since we first began this process in January, we will continue to provide updates as appropriate.”
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By Nick Worth