California company to buy Icicle Seafoods

Private equity firm to keep executives on board, officials say

Posted: Tuesday, August 07, 2007

ANCHORAGE - One of Alaska's largest seafood processing plants is being sold to a private equity firm based out of California, company executives said.

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Seattle-based Icicle Seafoods Inc. has peak seasonal employment of about 2,200 people, and with an annual revenue of about $300 million it is one of the top processors of Alaska salmon, halibut, pollock and crab.

Fox Paine Management III, an investment firm based near San Francisco, has agreed to purchase the company for an undisclosed price.

The deal is still subject to regulatory and stockholder approval, but officials said they hoped to complete the sale within 90 days.

"It's a good opportunity for the company to grow a lot faster than it otherwise would have, and it's also a way to liquidate some of our long-term shareholders," said Don Giles, Icicle's president. "We've got a lot of things we want to do in Alaska and other places."

He said the management will be staying on to run the company, which will benefit from the extra financial clout Fox Paine will offer.

The Icicle sale comes at the busiest time of the year for the company, which runs a heavily seasonal operation. It operates plants in Bristol Bay, Seward, Kodiak's Larsen Bay and Petersburg.

The company also operates a processing plant in Bellingham, Wash., and it recently began farming salmon and trout in Chile.

Icicle is the second major Alaska seafood processor to change hands this year. Seattle-based Ocean Beauty Seafoods Inc. announced in April it was selling a 50 percent stake to Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. of Dillingham.

Icicle was founded in Petersburg in 1965 after a group of fishermen and employees bought the Pacific American Fisheries cannery. Since then, the company has become a leading competitor in a state that accounts for more than half of all seafood production in the United States.

Giles said the bulk of the owners today are employees who run the plants.

Fox Paine invests in a wide range of companies, according to its Web site. Until last year when it sold its shares, it was a major owner of Alaska Communications Systems, an Anchorage telecommunications company.

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