Trident Seafoods’ Chuck Bundrant becomes a billionaire

Published on
July 21, 2017

Founder and majority owner of Trident Seafoods Chuck Bundrant has achieved billionaire status, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index – a far cry from when, as a college freshman in 1961, Bundrant drove to Seattle, Washington U.S.A. with just USD 80 (EUR 68) in his pocket and fishing on his mind. 

Nowadays, Bundrant is worth at least USD 1.1 billion (EUR 945 million), Bloomberg reckons, with Trident Seafoods valued at USD 2.1 billion (EUR 1.8 billion). The Billionaires Index posits that Bundrant owns 51 percent of the privately-owned Trident Seafoods, which raked in USD 2.4 billion (EUR 2.06 billion) in revenue in 2016.  

A key component of Bundrant’s success was his championing of pollock in the 1980s, when he convinced Americans to consume what was then considered a “trash fish." The campaign has had serious staying power –Trident continues to ship pollock alongside cod and salmon to several chains across the country, including Costco and Safeway. Moreover, Bundrant’s nurturing of relationships with politicians has allowed for his business to keep foreign fisheries at bay, Bloomberg reported.  

Bundrant has been described as a "huge risk-taker, someone with an open mind for opportunity," by longtime friend Brent Paine, the executive director of trade association United Catcher Boats, reported Bloomberg.

“He knew nothing about fishing boats, or catching and processing crab and salmon,’’ said Bundrant’s son Joe, Trident’s chief executive officer since 2013, in a company video. “He’d only watched a movie with John Wayne in it called ‘North to Alaska.’ And he heard there was money to be made on the fishing grounds, thousands and thousands of miles from home.’’

When Bundrant drove to Seattle in 1961, he was said to have been taking time off from his studies in pre-veterinary medicine in Tennessee. While sleeping on docks and grabbing any work to come his way in Bristol Bay, Alaska, Bundrant happened across two other crab fishermen, Kaare Ness and Mike Jacobson. All three pooled their money together in 1973 and built the Billikin, a 135-foot vessel, and then, later on, they composed Trident Seafoods as an enterprise.  

Bundrant prides himself as a strong leader helping the little guys, in the mold of Henry Ford, according to Paine. "He told me once: ‘Every industry needs a strong leader, it helps smaller businesses. I am that big leader,’" Paine said to Bloomberg. 

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