Cooke family buys Icicle Seafoods

The acquisitive owners of Cooke Seafood announced on Monday, 9 May their purchase of Icicle Seafoods, creating a seafood giant expected to produce more than 275,000 metric tons of seafood and generate an estimated USD 1.8 billion (EUR 1.58 billion) in sales annually.

The agreement will give New Brunswick, Canada-based Cooke Seafood 100 percent ownership of Icicle, including its three business units overseeing production of wild salmon and groundfish in Alaska and farmed Atlantic salmon in Washington State, Cooke Seafood’s Vice President of Communications Nell Halse confirmed to SeafoodSource.

“Icicle is a complex company, with many aspects to it, and Cooke has been looking to expand into the broader seafood sector,” Halse said.

Terms of the deal were not announced. With the purchase, Cooke Seafoods continues its expansion into the United States, following its takeover of Virginia-based Wanchese Fish Company in June 2015. 

“The deal will enhance the family’s investments in both the wild fishery and the aquaculture sectors, making them leaders in the U.S. salmon farming sector and a major player in the Alaskan salmon fishery,” the company said in a press release. “It will also become the only company in the world that farms salmon while holding a significant market position in wild salmon.”

It also gives Cooke access to a wider variety of species including wild salmon, black cod, pollock, rockfish, crab and farmed salmon from Washington state, to augment the Cooke Seafood’s farmed salmon from eastern Canada and Maine.

“With a worldwide network of cold storage and distribution facilities, Cooke will be able to offer a large portfolio of seafood protein from the ocean – both farmed and wild – to a broad base of customers in the global marketplace,” the press release said. “Because of Icicle’s diversification across a wide array of species and product forms, Cooke’s global sales team will be able to provide customers with year-round access to fresh seafood.”

Halse said a major benefit of the deal is that it will provide Cooke Seafoods the opportunity of putting its extensive sales and distribution networks to more full use.

“A year ago bought Wanchese, and like that purchase, this gives us a huge opportunity for synergy through our marketing and distribution channels,” Halse said.

Halse said the deal “was a while in coming” but said the two sides expected the transaction to close in 30 days or less, following regulatory and legal clearance.

“It was a very complicated deal, and so it’s not unexpected for that to take some time to work out all the details,” she said.

Cooke Seafood President Glenn Cooke said his company was eager to add Icicle’s Alaskan presence to his company’s holdings, which are primarily based on the continent’s east coast.

“The closing of this deal will be an exciting venture for us as it will add a well-respected fishery to our family businesses,” Cooke said. “We have tremendous respect for the Alaska fishery and its highly valued brand in the seafood marketplace. Our family and our business is rooted in a small coastal fishing town on the east coast of Canada and we have become a mainstay to communities in rural and coastal Maine. We look forward to meeting with similar communities in Alaska and supporting them for the long-term.”

Icicle Seafoods CEO Christopher Ruettgers said his company will benefit from the capital injection the sale will provide.

“The Icicle team is excited about the opportunity to join the Cooke family of companies and to be able to focus on the expansion of our footprint in Alaska,” Ruettgers said. “Cooke provides Icicle with a long-term owner that is dedicated to the seafood industry. The partnership with Cooke also means access to capital to further modernize our platform, expanded market access for the products harvested by our fleets and a broader product offering for our customer base.”

In its press release, Cooke Seafoods said the transaction was “consistent with the Cooke family’s focus on vertical integration and diversification in terms of geography, products and markets.” 

“Icicle Seafoods, Inc. will provide another platform for growth within the capture fishery. The Cooke family’s strategy has been to achieve growth through acquisitions and organic growth in the seafood sector that is both sustainable and responsibly managed to meet market demand,” it said.

The Cooke family is composed of Glenn Cooke, his father, Gifford Cooke, and his brother, Mike Cooke. Cooke Seafood’s primary business, Cooke Aquaculture, was founded in Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick in 1985. Over the past 30 years, the company expanded from its original operation of a single marine cage containing 5,000 salmon to a global player with operations around the globe, including eastern Canada, the eastern United States, Chile, Spain and Scotland.

According to the company’s website, soon after the company was founded, “recognizing that integration would become essential to competing worldwide and desiring to control their own destiny, the Cookes embarked on an aggressive plan for growth that continues to this day with acquisitions and a strategic search for development opportunities.”


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