Hostess and union agree to talk

Nov. 19, 2012 at 4:56 PM
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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Eulogies for Hostess Brands, makers of Twinkies may be premature, as the bakers' union and the company agreed to talk over their differences.

The New York Times reported Monday that Judge Robert Drain of the Federal Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York requested the two sides sit down to talk and possibly save the 82-year-old company that makes Twinkies, Wonder Bread and Hostess Cupcakes.

On Friday, the company filed for permission to liquidate, saying it could not survive a strike by 5,600 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union.

Instead of granting permission for a liquidation sale, Drain requested the two sides attempt to negotiate a settlement and said he would mediate a discussion on Tuesday afternoon.

In addition, Marc Leder, co-chief executive officer of Sun Capital Partners, said the investment firm is looking at a possible purchase of the company.

Leder said Sun Capital, which had considered buying Hostess earlier this year, "could offer a slightly better, more labor-friendly deal than what was on the table last week," CNN reported.

Fortune magazine said Leder was considering investing fresh capital into the business.

"We would look to invest newer, more modern manufacturing assets that would enable the company to become more productive and to innovate," Leder said.

A union leader and the company's current CEO Gregory Rayburn had earlier aired competing statements concerning the chance that someone could rescue the brand.

Frank Hurt, president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers' International Union, told The Wall Street Journal he thought there was "more than a good chance" a buyer would buy the profitable parts of the Irving, Texas, company and give his union's members their jobs back.

The union said management's insistence on deep union concessions was responsible for the collapse while the company blamed the union's weeklong strike.

In total, a shutdown of the company would result in the loss of more than 18,000 jobs.

"I'm not in a position to promise anybody anything, but I'm in a position to be hopeful," Hurt told the Journal Sunday.

He said he was encouraged by the weekend customer frenzy to purchase Hostess products after Friday's shutdown announcement.

"People are going crazy because they think they're not going to be able to get any Twinkies or Ho Hos or Wonder Bread," he said. "They'll be produced somewhere, some time and by our members."

But Rayburn told the Journal he did not see a future for Hostess.

"Nobody wants to have anything to do with these old plants or these unions or these contracts," he said.

The company -- owner of 30 American brands, including Hostess, Wonder Bread, Nature's Pride, Dolly Madison, Butternut Breads and Drake's -- sought buyers for several years as it tried to avoid a second bankruptcy filing, but no buyer came forward, he told the Journal.

Hostess emerged from a 2004 bankruptcy in 2009. At that time it changed its name to Hostess from Interstate Bakeries and moved its headquarters to Irving from Kansas City, Mo.

"People are excited about the brands today, but I don't know how you connect the dots" to predict a company production rebirth, Rayburn told the Journal.

He said the company could not move forward with the union members who had struck.

"That's beyond wishful thinking. That, to me, is just misguided," he said.

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