UPDATED: NatureSweet buys greenhouse competitor

03/28/2013 11:52:00 AM
Coral Beach

(UPDATED COVERAGE, 4:45 p.m.) A bankruptcy judge has approved the sale of EuroFresh Farms — including 318 acres of greenhouses and all real and intellectual propery — to NatureSweet Ltd. for more than $51 million.

EuroFresh, Wilcox, Ariz., filed for bankruptcy Jan. 27. A day later San Antonio-based NatureSweet’s chief executive officer Bryant Ambelang announced plans to buy EuroFresh. The sale includes Eurofresh brands, website and packaging.

Judge Eileen Hollowell approved the sale March 27. Court documents show that NatureSweet officials want to close the sale by April 8.

“Until the sale closes we won’t be able to provide many specific comments,” said Michael Joergensen, marketing director for NatureSweet.

A prepared statement released March 28 by Ambelang said NatureSweet will take “a balanced approach to bringing EuroFresh Farms products and customers into the NatureSweet family.”

In a declaration filed with the bankruptcy court, Ambelang explained the corporate structure behind NatureSweet’s acquisition of EuroFresh. He said the majority owner of NatureSweet, Silver Brands Partners LP, which has had a controlling interest in the San Antonio company since 1997, formed an entity called Zona Acquisition Co. to facilitate the sale.

Zona was the only qualified bidder who expressed interest in buying EuroFresh, court documents stated. Judge Hollowell called for additional bidders during a hearing March 27, but no one responded.

At closing, Silver Brands will transfer the equity interests in Zona to NatureSweet, making it a wholly-owned subsidiary of NatureSweet.

Total claims against EuroFresh, according to bankruptcy documents, were $69.5 million. Unsecured, non-priority claims totaled $10.7 million. Secured claims totaled $58.3 million.

Fred Petersen, an attorney representing EuroFresh, said there were less than 10 creditors with a total of about $600,000 in claims under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.



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