USA – Bumble Bee Foods, one of North America’s largest seafood producer, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and entered into an asset purchase agreement with Taiwan-based FCF Fishery to acquire the company’s assets for approximately US$925 million.

According to a press release from the company, the 120-year-old tuna maker said the sale will enable the company to reduce its debt burden caused by recent and significant legal challenges.

“It’s been a challenging time for our company, but today’s actions allow us to move forward with minimal disruption to our day-to-day operations,” said Jan Tharp, President and Chief Executive Officer for Bumble Bee.

“We have an experienced leadership team in place and plan to transform our business in bold and innovative ways that will build a legacy worthy of our proud 120-year-old history.”

In 2017, Bumble Bee was fined US$25 million in a tuna price-fixing case filed by major grocery chains Walmart, Kroger and Albertsons.The US Justice Department allowed Bumble Bee to pay the fine over the course of five years.

According to its bankruptcy filing, Bumble Bee still owes US$17 million to the US Department of Justice.

In addition, the company has also been struggling to lift its performance in the decline of tuna industry which has seen US canned tuna consumption per capita shrink by 38% between 1998 and 2017, according to data from the US Department of Agriculture.

In what Bumble Bee’s chief termed as “boldy transforming its business” the company now intends to file a bid procedures and sale motion along with the purchase agreement promptly.

FCF will serve as the “stalking horse” purchaser for the sale process. Its bid will be subject to a court-supervised auction process designed to achieve the highest or otherwise best offer for the company’s business.

FCF’s bid includes US$275 million in cash and US$638.5 million in debt, according to a CNBC report. Tharp said she anticipates that the transaction will move swiftly and close within 60-90 days.

As part of the sale transaction, Bumble Bee’s Canadian affiliate, Connors Bros. Clover Leaf Seafoods Company, will be initiating proceedings under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.

The company noted that Clover Leaf Seafoods will appoint Alvarez & Marsal Canada Inc. as the monitor to oversee the CCAA proceedings.

While the company claimed that the process allows for continued transformation with focus on innovation and growth, Bumble Bee plans to continue operating business as usual.

“It is our clear intent that all U.S. and Canadian operations continue uninterrupted. Employees will get paid, our customer partners can count on us to continue delivering outstanding brands and services, and vendors will be paid in the ordinary course of business,” added Tharp.

Bumble Bee is currently owned by London-based private-equity firm Lion Capita, which bought the company in 2010 for US$980 million.