Icicle, with some 350 year-round employees and 2,000 seasonal workers, is set to become part of Cooke Seafood, a company with operations from Chile to Scotland.
Seattle-based Icicle Seafoods, founded more than a half-century ago by Southeast Alaska fishermen, will be acquired by Canada-based Cooke Seafood, an aquaculture giant with global operations.
Icicle, with some 350 year-round employees and 2,000 seasonal workers, is owned by Paine & Partners, a California-based investment group.
Cooke, based in New Brunswick, said the salewill create an industry giant that will have some $1.8 billion in annual sales. The deal, expected to close within 30 days, represents another consolidation in the seafood industry.
“ We’re going to keep the Icicle company name as well as the senior management,” said Cooke spokeswoman Nell Halse. “Our intention is to invest in the business.”
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Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The three Icicle Seafoods units being sold process more than 150,000 metric tons of seafood annually.
Paine acquired Icicle in 2007. Last July, it announced a sale of the company to other buyers, but that deal fell through in September.
Icicle Seafoods was formed by Petersburg, Alaska, fishermen who banded together to save a salmon cannery, then expanded operations, and used a stock-option plan to turn company employees into owners.
Icicle Seafoods’ portfolio includes five salmon farms in Puget Sound and an array of Alaska catcher boats, processing vessels and shore-based plants that handle wild salmon, crab, herring, cod and other seafood species.
Cooke grew out of a family-run business in Blacks Harbour, a small fishing community on Canada’s east coast.
It currently has sales approaching $1 billion, and is invested in salmon farming in Canada, Maine, Chile and Scotland as well as other seafood ventures in Virginia and Spain.
Cooke will now be a player in Alaska’s wild-salmon industry, which has long been wary of the farmed-salmon competition.
Many salmon fishermen have been concerned that escaped farm fish might pose a risk to Alaska’s wild runs, and the Alaska Legislature has banned fish farming in the coastal waters of the 49th state.
Halse says Cooke recognizes the historic tensions.
“We believe we have got to work together,” Halse said “We are all in the seafood business. The world is going to need more protein.”
Icicle Seafood CEO Christopher Ruettgers said in a statement that Cooke provides “a long-term owner dedicated to the seafood industry. The partnership also means access to capital to further modernize our platform, expanded market access for our fleets and a broader product offering for our customer base.”