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Icicle Seafoods to be purchased by Cooke family


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Petersburg's largest employer and oldest local seafood processor, Petersburg Fisheries, has been sold to Canadian Atlantic salmon farming company Cooke Aquaculture.

Cooke Aquaculture announced the signing of a definitive agreement to purchase Icicle Seafoods earlier this week. The purchase will mean new ownership for one of the largest seafood processors operating in Alaska now owned by Paine and Partners, a California-based investment group. Paine acquired Icicle in 2007.

The announcement came through a Cooke Seafood news release and means one of the largest Atlantic salmon farming companies on the Canadian east coast will now become a player in the Alaskan wild salmon market. Icicle's ground fish operations will also be part of the deal according to Nell Halse, vice president of communications for Cooke Aquaculture.

Cooke is headquartered in New Brunswick, Canada, and known as a lean, family-owned operation that began operating 30 years ago. The addition of Icicle's Washington state-based farming operation and its Alaska wild salmon operation will push the company's production over 275,000 metric tonnes (303,136 tons) of seafood annually. The acquisition of Icicle will generate $1.8 billion in annual sales, according to the news release.

Halse says Icicle's farming operation was what originally drew Glenn Cooke, president of Cooke Seafood, to the thought of purchasing the company. However, after Cooke traveled to Alaska and saw more of the wild salmon operation, including here in Petersburg, he became interested in purchasing the entire company.

"This is an exciting venture for us, it's a big move," Halse says. "We are looking forward to having the deal closed so we can actually get on the ground and spend time with people and learn from them."

Cooke has a worldwide network of cold storage and distribution facilities and the move into wild salmon will allow the company to expand its already large global portfolio. The purchase is just the latest addition for the Cooke brand that in recent years has focused on expansion and investment into new markets in Scotland and Spain. The company also purchased Wanchese Fish Company based out of Virginia last year.

"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," says Christopher Ruettgers, CEO of Icicle Seafoods. "Cooke provides Icicle with a long term owner that is dedicated to the seafood industry."

A pair of Indonesian companies were working on a deal to purchase Icicle last year, but the deal fell through for unknown reasons. The Cooke purchase should be finalized within 30 days. The company looks at Icicle as an investment in Alaska and small fishing-based communities. The company is not planning any personnel changes, Halse says.

Icicle Seafoods was formed in 1965 by Petersburg fishermen who raised capital to purchase the PAF cannery assets in Petersburg.


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