A bankruptcy court has approved the sale of the properties formerly owned by defunct tomato grower-shipper East Coast Brokers and Packers Inc.
On Sept. 5, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Tampa, Fla., approved $75 million in bids generated from a series of auctions of the Mulberry, Fla.-based East Coast’s facilities and assets owned by the Madonia family and related entities.
Once one of Florida’s largest tomato grower-shippers, East Coast last fall stopped operations and then filed for bankruptcy protection in March.
Four live real estate auctions, an online real estate auction, two equipment auctions and the private sale of a condominium became a complex undertaking involving auction and agricultural real estate marketing companies, according to a news release.
“By any yardstick you can come up with, this team has achieved more than anybody could have reasonably expected,” Chapter 11 Trustee Jerry McHale said in the release. “This was an incredibly diverse group of properties, with farmland, luxury residences, processing plants and hundreds of machines, and it was a massive challenge just to organize it all. The creditors have recouped more of their investment than many people imagined.”
By purchasing the majority of East Coast’s Florida and Virginia farmland, Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc. was the highest bidder.
Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte paid $34.8 million for 5,851 acres of land and East Coast’s primary Florida and Virginia packinghouse.
Immokalee, Fla.-based Lipman and some other growers purchased various packinghouses and real estate firms bought the remaining properties which included farmland, several homes and condominiums.
When it closed, East Coast’s owners owed at least $51 million to a variety of agribusiness and crop production-related firms.