story by Kim Souza
Employees of Allens Canning have been told that Chris Kiser, CEO and founder of Lerwick Partners, a Dallas-based consumer goods company, will be the next CEO for the Siloam Springs food company pending the sale to Sager Creek Acquisition.
It will the first time in 88 years that the Allen family is not running the company. CEO Josh Allen is stepping away from the family business as a result of the pending bankruptcy sale. The company has declined to comment on a leadership change.
Kiser has an lengthy career in the food business according to his LinkedIn. He has nearly 20 years experience in the food business, from his early years as a vice president for Campbell Soup Company to managing national accounts for Diago, to nearly seven years at Pinnacle Food as executive vice president of sales. He later spent three years as president of AdvancePierre Foods, overseeing the company’s retail and foodservice business.
Since September, Kiser has worked in his consulting business providing insights and operational guidance to emerging private equity and publicly traded companies.
Kiser’s executive summary states that he’s an experienced senior executive, adept at leading change in large and medium sized consumer goods companies. He is credited with a strong track record of recruiting, developing and leading talent to deliver organizational goals. His experience also includes a strong understanding of customer management, consumer marketing, trade promotion management and category business planning.
He is also noted to have experience in management changes, talent acquisition and organization development including mergers.
One big question on the mind of Northwest Arkansas residents is what will happen to the local jobs once the sale of Allens to Sager Creek is complete.
Allens employs roughly 140 workers at its corporate office in Siloam Springs and another 1,000 employees in its manufacturing facilities. The company said it had about 162 salaried workers at the time of its bankruptcy filing, with 766 hourly employees. The company’s weekly payroll averaged $774,000.
Sources close to the deal told The City Wire that the new owners were prepared to infuse the needed capital to turn the manufacturing business around. Sager Creek agreed to pay $124.78 million for the assets auctioned by the bankruptcy court and also set aside adequate funds to satisfy outstanding court approved claims to growers who had not yet been paid for agricultural crops raised.
Dave Chamberlain, a former green bean grower in western Benton County, said he wishes the new ownership the best of luck.
“Allens has been a strong supporter to this region for many years and no one wants to see the company fold. It is my hope that the new owners will turn things around. There’s plenty of open ground here to plant for them, if they are interested,” he said.
Allens filed bankrupcty in October, and the company showed $294.465 million in assets and debts of $287.945 million. The company notes that income had been tight since 2012, when Allens reported $420 million in 2012 revenue, down 30% from 2011.
Allens officials made several moves in 2012 to shore up business, including a March 2012 announcement that Allens was selling six frozen vegetable brands to the French company, Bonduelle Group.
The company also announced in early 2012 that the company would move operations and 150 jobs from Van Buren into an Allens canning operation in Siloam Springs. The company’s Van Buren warehouse operation was expected to remain open.
Consolidating the canning operations came more than 30 months after Van Buren operations were expanded. In June 2010 the company announced a more than $20 million expansion that included a $13.5 million investment in the company’s Van Buren operation. The $13.5 million investment in Van Buren expanded the company’s capacity to process sweet potatoes.
Twice in the past few years Allens' execs sought to merge with Seneca Foods. Once in 2011, the two companies said they in hoped to merge, but after months of due diligence the firms could not reach an agreement and abandoned the deal.
Allens then approached Seneca Foods about being the stalking horse bidder in the firm’s bankruptcy sale. Seneca was outbid by Sager Creek Acquisition and McCall Foods, who submitted the backup offer. The sale to Sager Creek is expected to close by Feb. 28.