AGRICULTURE

Aberdeen beef plant sale moving forward

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Farm Forum

The sale of an idled beef plant on the south side of Aberdeen is moving forward following a bankruptcy auction last month, said a Minneapolis attorney representing Northern Beef Packers.

Joel Nesset, of the Cozen O’Connor law firm, said there is no reason to believe the sale to White Oak Global Advisors won’t be finalized. All of the legal paperwork that’s been filed and ruled upon since the Dec. 5 bankruptcy sale in Sioux Falls has been moving the sale ahead, he said.

The sale should be finalized by the end of February and perhaps much sooner, Nesset said.

He does not represent White Oak, the California-based finance company that submitted the highest bid for Northern Beef. White Oak’s bid was $39.5 million in credit and $4.8 million, mostly to satisfy liens and pay fees. In 2012, it lent the plant $35 million.

White Oak has not announced its plans for the beef plant, though local officials who met with representatives of the firm were left with the impression the plant will eventually open and slaughter cattle as it did before declaring bankruptcy last summer.

The judge in the bankruptcy case has not yet ruled on a motion by White Oak to set aside roughly $4.35 million to pay liens against the plant, Nesset said. He said the resolution of those liens is slowing the sale.

White Oak has agreed that, once the sale is finalized, it will pay more than $1.07 million in past due property taxes, interest and penalties to Brown County. And it’s willing to put that money, along with as much as $3.31 million for an out-of-business Huron contractor, in an escrow account so the sale can move forward.

A dispute about how much is owed to Scott Olson Digging of Huron for dirt work done during the early stages of construction, is ongoing. The contractor filed a mechanic’s lien, claiming it was underpaid. But Northern Beef claimed it was overcharged. There is no disagreement on the property taxes owed, and the taxes cannot be forgiven in bankruptcy proceedings.

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