Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

Shareholders defend Farmer Brothers move to Fort Worth

The new corporate headquarters for Farmer Brothers is taking shape in Northlake near the Texas Motor Speedway.
The new corporate headquarters for Farmer Brothers is taking shape in Northlake near the Texas Motor Speedway. jlmarshall@star-telegram.com

Shareholders are coming to the defense of Farmer Brothers executives, who moved the company from California to North Texas and now face a mutiny by some members of the founding family.

In a detailed post on the Seeking Alpha investment website, Mitchell Sacks, chief investment officer at Grand Slam Asset Management in New York, laid out his case for voting against the campaign launched by Carol Farmer Waite. He contends that operations of the coffee company have improved dramatically under CEO Michael Keown, who was hired in 2012, and paints the picture of a company that was hostile to shareholders when it was run by Farmer family members.

“During current management’s tenure, the stock has risen from about $11 per share to its current price of $32 for a total return of 191%,” said Sacks, who said he began accumulating Farmer shares in 2012 and described his holdings as meaningful. “The current board has moved FARM into a better-run company over the years.”

Last month, Carol Farmer Waite, whose grandfather founded Farmer Brothers, sent a letter to the Farmer board, announcing the creation of a group called “Save Farmer Bros.” with the intention of seeking three board seats and replacing Keown as CEO. She said the group includes other relatives who collectively control 23 percent of the outstanding stock.

In her letter, Waite called Farmer stock undervalued and said the decision to relocate the company to North Texas from Torrance, Calif., was “misguided.”

Farmer Brothers, which makes coffee and supplies it to restaurants, hotels, casinos and other food-service providers, broke ground a year ago on a corporate headquarters complex at Interstate 35W and Texas 114 in Northlake, across the highway from Texas Motor Speedway.

The 537,000-square-foot facility will include 100,000 square feet of manufacturing space, where coffee beans will be roasted and packaged, and 300,000 square feet of distribution space. It is expected to employ at least 300.

While the complex is being built, the company has its headquarters near Alliance Airport.

In a separate letter sent to board, Gary Poltash, a retired accountant who says he has owned Farmer Brothers shares for five years, applauded the decision to relocate to Texas, saying the California labor force was “too expensive” and calling the Save Farmer Bros. campaign “self-serving.”

We’ll get an update on Farmer Brothers operations Monday when the company reports results for its fourth fiscal quarter. A date for the annual shareholders meeting hasn’t been set, though it’s usually in December.

Here comes Andy’s Frozen Custard

It seems like a new burger joint opens somewhere in North Texas almost every week, and now we have a new spot for ice cream too.

Actually, frozen custard — a summertime treat that is like soft ice cream but made with eggs in addition to cream and sugar.

Andy’s Frozen Custard, an Ohio-based chain with stores in five states, opened its first Metroplex location in Carrollton in April and plans to open two this fall in Tarrant County: one in Grapevine at 1135 William D. Tate Ave. and another in North Richland Hills at at 6429 Precinct Line Road, near Mid-Cities Boulevard.

Their retro design screams ice cream store of old. And the menu has a lot of variety, featuring vanilla and chocolate custard in cups and cones with many possible toppings. There are sundaes and concretes (custard blended with flavorings, cookies or nuts), such as the Jitterbug (vanilla blended with espresso, Heath bar and almonds) as well as malts and seasonal treats like an Andy Nog Shake.

The chain also plans to open two locations in Frisco this fall, and one in Lewisville. The Grapevine store is expected to open in mid-October.

Lockheed honors wounded vets

Despite having a fighting spirit, veterans leaving military service often have a tough time transitioning to civilian life. The struggle can be even more daunting for those who return wounded.

Lockheed Martin wants to make things easier for two wounded warriors by awarding scholarships — one for flying, the other for sailing — during the Armed Forces Bowl activities Dec. 23 in Fort Worth.

The Lockheed Martin Fighting Spirit Scholarship will provide sports and physical activity programs through two top-notch organizations. The flying scholarship will be conducted through Able Flight, which provides aviation career training for those with disabilities, and the sailing instruction will come from the Warrior Sailing Program, which is dedicated to provide certification to wounded, ill and injured veterans.

“We are honored to work with Able Flight and Warrior Sailing Program to give back to the armed forces community, and provide two veterans with an enriching, unforgettable experience of a lifetime,” Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said in a statement.

Upon completion of Able Flight’s six-week flight school at Purdue University’s Department of Aviation Technology, recipients will earn a pilot’s license and receive their wings at the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh airshow in July.

The winner of the sailing scholarship gets a nationally recognized Basic Keelboat Sailing Certification.

Able Flight and Warrior Sailing Program will each select a winner from the pool of applicants who apply through their respective websites.

Learn more about the Lockheed Martin Fighting Spirit Scholarship Program at LockheedMartin.com/ Fighting Spirit.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko

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