Agriprocessors CEO ‘Optimistic’ On Investor Talks

Head of the embattled meatpacking plant says he's optimistic that talks with investors interested in buying at least a share of the company could save it from a permanent shutdown.

POSTVILLE, Iowa (AP) -- The chief executive officer of an embattled kosher meatpacking plant in Postville says he's optimistic that talks with investors interested in buying at least a share of the company could save the plant from a permanent shutdown.

Agriprocessors Inc. CEO Bernard Feldman confirmed that he is in "full-blown discussions" with investors.

The talks come as outside businesses seek payment of overdue bills and plant managers struggle with financial issues that have slowed production.

"I don't believe we're going to have substantial production of any kind in the near future," Feldman said.

He did not elaborate on which outside investors and companies were interested in buying a stake in the plant saying he didn't want to jeopardize the talks.

The New York lawyer was named CEO after the nation's largest kosher-certifying agency said it would revoke certification unless a new leader was hired.

Professor Joe Regenstein, a kosher food expert at Cornell University in New York, said he'd heard of at least one company interested in buying the plant. A new owner may not want to use Agriprocessors' brand names because of the recent scandal the company has been involved in.

"The brand equity is going down and down," he said.

Nearly 400 of the plant's workers were arrested during a federal immigration raid in May. The former plant manager was arrested last week.

Other officials including supervisors and human resources workers also face federal immigration charges.

Government fines proposed against the plant total in the tens of millions of dollars. At least four companies have filed lawsuits against Agriprocessors, including St. Louis-based First Bank, which claims the meatpacking company defaulted on a $35 million loan.

Alliant Energy spokesman Ryan Stensland said the plant has received a power disconnection notice because of unpaid bills, although he couldn't disclose how much it owes.

The plant, which came into Postville in the 1980s, is the area's largest employer and buys livestock from many farms.

Sen. Mark Zieman, R-Postville, said the company had returned cattle to at least one local farmer.

"I think we'll have to see how this is going to shake out," Zieman said.

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