Wayne Farms

A month after a blockbuster deal was announced, a company that is in the process of purchasing Sanderson Farms has put its poultry-processing property in Laurel up for sale.

The Wayne Farms plant in Laurel is being sold, company spokesman Frank Singleton confirmed. 

“Several major companies are currently interested and all of them are qualified,” Singleton said, adding that there is no timetable for the deal. “Until that happens, it will be business as usual and the plant will continue to operate.”

The plan is to “optimize a deal that’s good for the growers and good for the employees.”

The Laurel plant employs about 800 people, he said. Employees there were reportedly informed of the plan on Wednesday morning.

Last month, it was announced that Sanderson and Wayne would combine to “create a best-in-class U.S. poultry company,” Wayne Farms CEO Clint Rivers said. “As a step toward completing this combination, we are in discussions to divest ownership of our Laurel facility with other well-known poultry companies, with the goal of maintaining the plant’s productivity and positive impact on the community.”

Continental Grain Co. — which is the parent company of Wayne Farms — and Cargill Inc. announced a deal last month to purchase Laurel-based Sanderson Farms for $4.53 billion. The transaction, which is subject to approval, is expected to close at the end of 2021 or in early 2022. A special meeting for stockholders has been set for 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 21.

Rivers will be the CEO of the combined companies, it was announced at the time the deal was made public.

Sanderson Farms had sales of $3.56 billion in Fiscal Year 2020, with 13 processing plants and 17,000 employees. Wayne Farms, based in Georgia, had sales of $2.2 billion and operates 11 plants with about 9,000 employees.

The deal to acquire Sanderson will be a cash transaction, and the sale of Wayne Farms’ Laurel facility is expected to be “turnkey,” Singleton said, with the new owner continuing operations as is.

The concern for locals, especially with the Sanderson sale, is the possible loss of higher-paying executive jobs. When companies merge, some administrative jobs are often eliminated to make them more profitable, so there isn’t a duplication of services.

Mark Thornton is the editor-in-chief at the Laurel Leader-Call. Contact him at editor@leader-call.com.

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