Six years ago, American Seafoods Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bernt Bodal led a buyout group that bought the assets of the current company from Norway Seafoods. But the new leader at the seafood harvest and processing giant was no corporate raider or landlubber.
Bodal spent 14 years in the Bering Sea as a skipper of crab boats, small trawlers, and, later, the enormous catcher-processor trawlers that comprise the majority of the American Seafoods' fleet of 11 vessels.
Bodal says that employing many former captains and crew members as corporate managers at Seattle, Wash.-headquartered American Seafoods is one secret to the company's success.
"We can relate to the people in the vessels," he says. "One reason we are so successful is that we combine people like myself with in-depth understanding of how big trawlers work and very smart professionals like IT people and financial experts without any fishing experience."
Bodal, a straight-talking, no-nonsense man, says that his measure of the company's success is its ocean liners' solid bottom line. The company, which issued public bonds in 2002, has had earnings before income, tax, depreciation and amortization of $110 million for five straight years.
American Seafoods includes American Seafoods Group, the corporate parent o fits operating companies; American Seafoods Co., the operating company responsible for pollock harvesting and processing operations in the U.S. Bering Sea; Pacific Longline Co., an operating company with longline Pacific cod harvesting and processing operations; American Seafoods International, an operator of land-based processing operations in New Bedford, Mass.; and Southern Pride Catfish Co., which conducts its land-based processing activities in Alabama. In all, the company, one of the largest integrated seafood companies in the United States in terms of revenues, employs about 1,100 full-time personnel and between 1,000 to 1,300 seasonal vessel crew.
AT THE CORE
The core of the company's business remains whitefish harvesting and processing, pollock in particular. The company owns a predetermined share of those fisheries through a consortium that operates according to federal fisheries law. It also participates in other fisheries, such as the hake, cod, yellow fin and sole.
While many fisheries are being depleted, the federal government has set limits for U.S. Bering Sea pollock fishing well below sustainable levels. Strict regulation of takes from such fisheries...