Fort Worth billionaire Sid Bass agreed to lend Blue Bell Creameries up to $125 million to help the ailing Texas company restart ice cream production, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
According to a letter obtained by the Journal, Bass was given warrants that will allow him to acquire one-third of the company before the loan matures in 2018. The financing from Bass “will enable us to move forward to restart our production and sales effort,” stated the letter, which was sent by Blue Bell executives to the ice cream company’s owners.
Earlier this week, Blue Bell announced that Bass had made a “significant investment” in the ice cream company but did not disclose specific details of the deal. The company was sent into a financial crisis when it was forced to shut down production after several cases of listeriosis were tied to its ice cream products.
In an email statement on Friday, the company would only say that “Blue Bell is a privately held company and we cannot discuss financial matters.”
The Brenham-based company expects to start test production trials at its Alabama facility later this month, and hopes to resume production at its Oklahoma and Texas manufacturing facilities this fall. Blue Bell has not disclosed when it plans to resume sales of ice cream to the public.
Blue Bell’s ice cream and other frozen products have been off grocery store shelves since April when the company recalled all of its products. Its products were linked to three deaths and several cases of listeriosis in four states.
In May, the company announced that 1,450 workers would be laid off and another 1,400 would be furloughed as Blue Bell shut down its ice ccream factories.
Bass, 73, is the oldest of four brothers who became billionaire investors from oil money they inherited.
In announcing the investment on Tuesday, Bass said he was excited to be part of the Blue Bell brand and family. On Friday, he declined to comment further on the size of the investment or the shareholder letter.
Blue Bell opened its first creamery in Brenham in 1907 and, until the recall, was selling ice cream and other frozen treats in 23 states. The iconic product grew to become the third-best selling ice cream in the U.S. behind Nestle, which makes Dreyer’s and Edy’s products and Unilever, maker of Ben & Jerry’s and Breyer’s ice cream.
Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631