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New name, new owners for Fieldbrook Farms.

Ken Johnson, President of Fieldbrook Farms, has announced that the company has a new official name: Fieldbrook Foods Corporation, doing business as Fieldbrook Farms. The modification is intended to denote the difference in the company as it stands today with new ownership, from its previous incarnation which filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in September 2001.

In January, the privately-held Fieldbrook sold its assets to Spruce Bank Enterprises, LLC, a private investment fund acquired the assets and business through a competitive auction process. Spruce Bank Enterprise, which had been a junior lender to the company before the acquisition, paid about $20 million to Fieldstone Acquisition Inc. in a bidding war that pitted it against food giant Suiza Foods Corp. which was eager to add Fieldbrook to its extensive family of significant frozen dessert subsidiaries.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Lorraine Murphy Weil had previously granted the Dunkirk, NY-based Fieldbrook the right to auction its assets after the company filed for Chapter 11 protection in September. "The bidding went back and forth between the two parties," debtor's counsel Barry Feigenbaum said. Feigenbaum, of Rogin, Nassau, Caplan, Lassman & Hirtle LLC in Hartford, Conn., said that Fieldstone Acquisition is an entity created for the purpose of acquiring the ice cream maker.

Wanda Borges, of Borges Donovan in Syosset, N.Y., the attorney for the unsecured creditors committee, told reporters that Fieldstone Acquisition will assume a loan of about $14 million, a $2.7 million mortgage, and a $1.85 million to an estate. The newly created company will continue paying employees' salaries and honoring severance and benefits packages. Fieldbrook had continued operating without interruption during its bankruptcy.

Fieldbrook Farms was forced into Chapter 11 after it made two acquisitions and subsequently defaulted on monthly payments under a May 2000 equipment lease agreement with General Electric Capital Corp., documents stated. "It was basically a cash crunch after we overextended in some areas," Mike Mitchell, vice president of Fieldbrook's sales, explained.

Spokesman Tom Drohan said a general slowdown in the economy, repercussions from the closing of a company plant in Georgia and the skyrocketing cost of ice cream ingredients, most notably milk fat, factored into the financial difficulty. Drohan said the company's filing had the full support of its lenders and investors who are supporting new financing.

Johnson, who was named president and chief operating officer following the acquisition, has been with Fieldbrook and its predecessor, Dunkirk Ice Cream Co., for 20 years. Johnson thanked the company's suppliers, customers and employees for their support through the reorganization process and indicated he was highly confident that "with their continued support the company would grow and prosper in Western New York." Johnson said that investment is planned in equipment and systems. The ice cream maker is projecting 2001 sales of $80 million and expects a quick turnaround for the company. Johnson also noted that Ronald Odebralski had been named corporate controller, and William Haveron, vice president and regional sales manager. Odebralski, is returning to the company after several years. Haveron joined the company in October, just after its bankruptcy filing.

Fieldbrook Farms is the largest manufacturer of private label ice cream and frozen desserts east of the Mississippi, employing over 400 people, and producing more than 1,000 different products for more than 10,000 retail outlets. The company was created in 1996 to acquire the assets of Dunkirk Ice Cream in 199G. James Greco, Fieldbrook's first CEO, oversaw a rapid increase in the company's sales, doubling revenues to $100 million. The employee count went up as well, to some 500 people, making the company the second largest employer in Dunkirk, according to the regional publication Buffalo Business First. Since the acquisition, Greco has announced his resignation to pursue other interests, but will be available to the company on a transition basis.
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Comment:New name, new owners for Fieldbrook Farms.
Publication:Ice Cream Reporter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 20, 2002
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