Here's a note Leader Creek Fisheries founder John Lowrance e-mailed yesterday to the company's Bristol Bay fishermen:
Thank you for your support. As always, we would not be here without you. In recent years, large fish runs and increasing commodity prices for our products have given us all a pretty fine ride. Last year, you received $1.10 for well-handled reds, and this year you will receive a very nice increase over that. All these good things are the result of your continuous efforts to deliver better quality fish year after year, in combination with our commitment to keep pushing forward with quality initiatives, value-added products, and a first class production facility.
Leader Creek made a commitment to an all-refrigerated fleet, sockeye fillets, and a profit sharing relationship during the dark days following the $.40/pound 2001 season. It was a plan borne out of desperation. Prices for H&G in Japan had fallen to a level that would not support the processing/fishing industry as a whole. Fishers joined Leader Creek hoping that through hard work, a commitment to quality, the production of fillets, and the development of new markets in the United Sates, we could lift ourselves back into economic plenty. What you are doing on the water in terms of floating, bleeding, and sliding fish was unthinkable ten years ago. A plant producing 70% fillets was considered impossible. The idea of profit sharing with the fleet more often than not garnered the reaction: "are you crazy Lowrance" or my favorite, "he's ruining Bristol Bay". As you are all aware, the plan borne of desperation has worked out rather well for all of us, and in the process, we have changed Bristol Bay.
There is a price for all things, and you don't get to play the role I have without some cost. Our success has brought with it a huge financial and emotional commitment to running Leader Creek. More and more, I find it overwhelming.
I have decided to sell our stake in LCF in order to unload that financial commitment and risk. From amongst many potential buyers, we are lucky to have attracted the interest of the Canadian Fishing Company (Canfisco) and the Jim Pattison Group (you can read more about them in the attached press release).
Canfisco has no desire to merge or blend or combine Leader Creek with any other entity. They want us as we are: an independent, well-run, profitable enterprise. There are no plans to change anything beyond our normal organic growth. The profit sharing relationship and deal will remain the same. I will be running the company through 2011, and if I like it, I will stay into the future.
My commitment to you is that the company you have dealt with in the past is the company you will see when you arrive in Bristol Bay in 2011. The deals will remain the same, and just like every other year, you will get pushed to produce even better quality fish.
Thank you again for all your cooperation and help over the years. This friendly, dynamic, symbiotic relationship we have is really the best part of it all. I am grateful to every one of you.
Sincerely, from a lucky guy (and gal)
John and Adele
P.S. The unsung heroes in all this are the 430 LCF employees, some of whom have been with us since the beginning. Without their continuous efforts, we would not have carried the ball this far. I am grateful to them as well.