Judge OKs Bellisio’s purchase of APC

Published 10:05 am Friday, June 21, 2013

The path is clear for Minneapolis-based Bellisio Foods Inc. to acquire Austin Packaging Company after Mower County District Judge Fred Wellmann approved sales plans Thursday.

Bellisio, which manufactures Michelina’s frozen dinners, along with products for Boston Market and private-label companies, bought the Austin company with a winning bid of $6.1 million on Wednesday and will assume about $280,000 of remaining liabilities, as well. It was one of two parties to bid on APC. Production is expected to remain in place in Austin, and optimistic Bellisio officials have plans to expand.

Lawyers for APC’s interim management made the case for the sale during a hearing Thursday afternoon, telling Wellmann the only objections to the sale were from outside companies such as General Mills and Nestle, who still have contracts with APC and will go along with the sale provided those contracts are still in effect.

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During the past two months, APC operated under the interim management of Tony Natale, of Shepherd Partners Inc. of Chicago. He helped stabilize the company’s dire financial situation after former owners Jim Heimark and Jeff Thatcher filed for receivership, a restructuring method under state law to avoid federal bankruptcy, in mid-April, several weeks after shutting down APC’s frozen pizza department and laying off about 75 employees. Since then, Natale, APC owners and Wells Fargo Bank hashed out a plan, which was approved in Mower County Court, to sell the company’s assets and pay debts. At one point, APC had a $2.9 million balance on a Wells Fargo line of credit, $1.9 million in unpaid equipment loans, along with trade creditors asserting claims for a total of $5.8 million as of April 30, according to court documents.

The sale is expected to close by July 3, and lawyers with Bellisio and Shepherd Partners Inc. have scheduled a court hearing for 3 p.m. July 2 in case Wellmann needs to rule on a particular clause in the final deal.

Matt Peterson contributed to this report.