June 1, 2009

As Agriprocessor Heads for a Comeback, Some Wonder How

New York…With each passing day, there are signs that the bankrupt Agriprocessor may soon be on the comeback trail. The company, operated by a bankruptcy trustee, for the first time took out full page ads in several Jewish newspapers for its poultry line, the only production that has been occurring at the Postville IA plant. KosherToday has learned that after a failed auction, the company may have already been sold to a group of investors who previously managed to overcome a major obstacle for a sale. The undisclosed company is said to have bought a $10 million credit line paving the way for the plant's sale. The source told KosherToday that the investors “cracked the big nut by buying out First Bank Business Capital's loan to Agriprocessor for an undisclosed amount.” Agriprocessor filed for bankruptcy in November, almost six months after federal immigration agents raided the plant and arrested 389 workers. The bank initially sought to recover most of the $37 million it had lent the company, (“and probably could have gotten it earlier," the source told KosherToday) but it is said to have received only a fraction of that amount.

With word that the company will be managed by new ownership at some point in the not too distant future, many in the kosher industry were speculating whether the company could make a comeback to its former position. Several sources told KosherToday that the new owners will find “a totally different landscape” with some markets “having an abundance of product” while other small markets have totally given up on carrying kosher meats. In the end, most ventured a guess that an initial comeback would have to be based on the old model of price. Many in the industry had always blamed Agri for keeping prices artificially low due to its business model and “religious desire to supply kosher meat to the masses.” In time the new owners will have to carve out a very quality oriented unique brand that may give them a shot at recovering their former leadership position, the sources opined.