Trying to predict what’s next for San Diego–based Bumble Bee Tuna in the turbulent waters of international commerce is tough, as evidenced by a company history presented by Andrew F. Smith in his 2012 history of the once all-American industry, American Tuna: The Rise and Fall of an Improbable Food.
Writes Smith, “In 1950, Bumble Bee was acquired by Castle & Cook, a prominent Hawaii-based food company. Ten years later, the company launched Bumble Bee Seafoods as a wholly owned subsidiary. In 1977 Bumble Bee acquired a tuna cannery in Puerto Rico and a fishing operation in Ecuador. Beginning in the 1980s, Bumble Bee went through a series of ownership changes, including its purchase by Pillsbury, which sold it to Unicord, based in Bangkok, Thailand. In 1997 it was sold to International Home Foods, Inc. In 2000, Bumble Bee was acquired by the American multinational ConAgra, but three years later it was sold to Connors Bros., a Canadian firm. In 2008 Centre Partners, an American private equity firm, acquired Bumble Bee Foods. Three years later, Centre Partners sold it for an estimated $980 million to Lion Capital LLP, a British private equity firm.”
Now Lion has sold the business to Thai Union Frozen Products for $1.5 billion, reportedly more than quadrupling its highly leveraged investment in the venture, according to Reuters.