Icicle Seafoods has a new owner. Canadian-based Cooke Seafood announced it had signed a definitive agreement to buy Icicle’s whole operation.
Icicle Seafoods started small in Petersburg and grew into one of the largest seafood companies in North America. In 2007, private equity firm Paine and Partners acquired Icicle, and began looking to sell it whole or in pieces a little over a year ago. Outlets like Undercurrent News and Intrafish aggressively covered the pending sale, tracking as other US companies like Trident, Copper River, and Silver Bay, several foreign seafood giants, and even Alaska’s CDQ’s expressed interest. Last June, Icicle inked a deal with wealthy Indonesian investors, but that fell through by September.
Enter Cooke Aquaculture, which hails from the small coastal town of Blacks Harbor in New Brunswick, on Canada’s east coast.
“Cooke is owned by Glen Cooke, he’s the CEO, and his father and his brother started the company 30 years ago, primarily farming salmon. But in recent years they have broadened out to a broader seafood agenda,” said Cooke’s Communications VP Nell Halse.
That includes Cooke’s purchase last year of the Wanchese Fish Company in North Carolina.
Icicle has three main components: a major farmed salmon operation in Washington State, its wild salmon arm in Alaska, and everything else it buys or has quota for in Alaska, like pollock, crab, halibut, black cod, and even Togiak herring. Halse admits the wild stocks with their volatile markets weren’t the immediate draw for Cooke.
“To be honest, the first interest point would have been the farmed salmon operations in the state of Washington. That’s what drew them to the opportunity. But the more that they ventured into understanding the full scope of the company, and its three different business units, I think there was a real excitement and interest in acquiring the whole operation.”
The purchase price between the private parties was not disclosed. Recognizing there’s much to learn yet about its new acquisition, Halse says Icicle will stay a standalone company with few initial changes:
“We’re maintaining the management team, the CEO will continue to head up the company, so we’re very fortunate we’ll be able to learn from an experienced team of people," said Halse.
Cooke Seafoods likes the potential it sees adding Icicle’s farmed and wild products into what it feels is its own already a strong customer base with good marketing and good distribution. Halse says the family-run company also keeps more in mind than just the bottom line:
“Even though we’re talking about the very important fishery in Alaska, it’s also about coastal and rural communities and providing economic opportunity and jobs for people there.”
She says CEO Glen Cooke already toured all of Icicle’s facilities in Washington and Alaska, and adds that Cooke Seafoods aims to be in this for the long haul.