Will promises be kept in proposed Smithfield Foods merger?Published 10:32am Wednesday, June 5, 2013
It makes sense that many in Western Tidewater would view the proposed merger between Smithfield Foods and the Chinese holding company Shuanghui International through jade colored glasses. In 1999, when International Paper purchased Union Camp, many said it was only a matter of time before IP shuttered the mill, just as they had done so many times before following similar acquisitions. Rumors swirled for years that there was a ten-year clause in the purchase agreement that prohibited IP from shutting down for at least a decade.
Shortly after a decade had elapsed, and just after announcing how profitable the Franklin mill was, IP pulled the plug.
Smithfield Foods’ executives, as well as spokesmen for Shuanghui, have said they plan to keep Smithfield Foods’ headquarters in Smithfield. Reports also indicate that Smithfield’s president and CEO, C. Larry Pope, would receive a retention bonus of $8.3 million should he remain at the helm for the next three years. Other senior executives have reportedly been offered similar bonuses.
Given the region’s, and especially Isle of Wight County’s, history with losing a major employer, we will keep our fingers crossed hoping that Smithfield Foods stays put for a very long time. IP’s closure dealt Western Tidewater one a hell of a blow. Should Smithfield Foods depart, well, lets just hope it doesn’t.