Ocean Beauty and Cooke’s Icicle Seafoods announce merger of Alaska operations

Published on
May 29, 2020

Ocean Beauty Seafoods and Icicle Seafoods, Inc. will merge their wild salmon and Gulf of Alaska groundfish operations under the umbrella of a new entity, OBI Seafoods LLC.

Included in the merger are all of Icicle’s five shoreside processing plants – its Wood River plant in Dillingham, Alaska; as well as facilities in Egegik, Larsen Bay, Seward, and Petersburg – as well as Ocean Beauty’s five plants in Naknek, Alitak, Kodiak, Cordova, and Excursion Inlet. Icicle Seafoods' processing operations on the P/V Gordon Jensen and the permanently moored craft Northern Victor in Dutch Harbor are not included in the merger, the companies announced in a 29 May press release.

Mark Palmer, the president and CEO of Ocean Beauty Seafoods, will serve as CEO of OBI Seafoods, while Icicle Seafoods Chief Operating Officer John Woodruff will become executive vice president of Alaska operations for the new company. The deal is set to close on 1 June, “in line with the 2020 wild Alaska salmon season,” according to the companies. Upon close of the transaction, Icicle and Ocean Beauty will each own a 50 percent stake in the OBI Seafoods.

“The Alaska salmon business is experiencing significant market and resource fluctuations. In order to flourish in this rapidly changing environment, we need to develop flexible and efficient business models and form innovative partnerships,” Palmer said. “The merger will enable more focus on selling seafood products in the global marketplace by leveraging both strong sales teams. Increased sales will bring additional investment to support growth and jobs.”

Icicle Seafoods is owned by Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick, Canada-based Cooke Inc., while Seattle, Washington-based Ocean Beauty is jointly owned by the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. and a group of private investors.

Talks between Cooke and Ocean Beauty over a deal to consolidate their operations in Alaska advanced earlier this month when a vote by the BBEDC board of directors approved the outline of the deal announced today.

While accelerated due to the opening of the 2020 salmon season, Palmer said he expects the merger to progress smoothly.

“The two companies’ cultures will blend well,” Palmer said. “We will be combining two very talented workforces that are highly motivated to compete successfully in today’s challenging market. This merger also presents the best opportunity for the new company to optimize our branded value-added seafood and make strategic long-term investments.”

Woodruff said the merger will provide benefits to OBI’s employees, vendors, and fishermen.

“Partnerships can provide employees with additional career growth opportunities in a wider variety of positions and locations,” he said. “As a unified team, we are confident we can make improvements to benefit employees, fishermen, customers, and vendors.”

Once the merger is complete, OBI plans to make “strategic investments to enhance its ability to compete in the world seafood market,” the companies said in the release.

“Initial plans include modernizing processing facilities and combining marketing and value-added product expertise,” they said. “The changes are designed to grow the value of the Alaska seafood resource in a way that benefits the company’s customers, employees, and fisherman partners.”

Woodruff said those changes will also include a streamlining of the two companies’ Alaska operations.

“To be more competitive globally, operational efficiencies in processing must be realized, along with continuing strong fleet relationships and placing an added focus on sales, marketing, and distribution,” he said.

Following the merger, Ocean Beauty’s and Icicle Seafoods’ Gulf of Alaska groundfish operations and all of their salmon operations will operate under the newly formed OBI. Ocean Beauty Seafoods’ smoked salmon and distribution operations will remain under its current ownership, and will operate under the name OBS Smoked & Distribution, LLC, the company said. Its other assets include a value-added processing facility in Washington state, seven distribution facilities in the western U.S., and sales offices in Seattle and Tokyo.

Icicle will continue to operate in the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, and Western Gulf of Alaska groundfish fisheries via the Gordon Jensen and Northern Victor processing operations, through a long-term supply contract with Evening Star Fisheries.

Photo courtesy of Ocean Beauty Seafoods

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