Sunland changes hands

By Christina Calloway

PNT senior writer

ccalloway@pntonline.com

Community leaders say after days of uncertainty, they’re happy that Sunland Inc. has a new owner and are excited to work with the new community partner.

Bankruptcy Trustee Clarke Coll said Thursday the sale of the defunct peanut giant to Canadian food supplier Golden Boy Foods Ltd., with the high bid of $26 million in Wednesday’s auction, will proceed after U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David Thuma denied an appeal from Hampton Farms of Severn, N.C., who won the first round of bidding for the company last week.return-to-work

Coll said the closing of the sale will continue today and may take a few more days to be completed, which will be followed with the transfer of Sunland’s assets to Golden Boy Foods.

Coll said from the testimony in court and discussions he’s had with Golden Boy officials, they plan to reopen the plant shortly and start processing peanut butter in Portales.

Golden Boy Foods President Richard Harris declined comment Thursday and attempts to contact Golden Boy’s parent holding company, Post Holdings, were unsuccessful.

What area leaders are most concerned about is the potential return of the 100-plus jobs that were lost with the closure of Sunland after the company filed for bankruptcy last year following a salmonella outbreak that prompted a nationwide recall and shuttered its operations for eight months.

Golden Boy Foods operates four nut butter plants in Canada and the U.S. and sources its supplies from around the world, according to its website.

Portales Mayor Sharon King said she was taken aback by the bankruptcy process but is ready to move forward and welcomes Golden Boy Foods to the community.

“I’m shocked they let bids come in after the deadline but I think the best route to take is that we’re glad we’re getting the plant opened back up,” King said. “We need to get people back to work and we’ll have a new partner in town.”

Portales City Manager Doug Redmond said he spoke with officials from Golden Boy Foods much earlier in the bankruptcy process but hasn’t had any recent conversations with the company.

But Redmond said he’s happy to hear they plan to operate in Portales.

“This will return people to work and provide a market for local peanut growers,” Redmond said. “I look forward to working with Golden Boy in the future and continuing our relationship with Hampton Farms as well.”

Hampton Farms owns Portales Select Peanut, a peanut shelling and packing company in Portales.

Sunland attorneys valued the company’s total assets at $50 million when it sought bankruptcy protection last fall.

The company owes its three major secured creditors about $14 million.

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