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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Wells Enterprises to keep business family-owned

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wells Enterprises, of Le Mars, will not bring in outside investors to raise money to become the No. 1 ice cream company in America by 2020.

Wells is currently the third largest ice cream company in the U.S.

The decision that Wells will not seek outside investors to finance the planned growth was announced to company employees and in a media statement Wednesday.

"The board of directors and shareholders have concluded that the best course of action is refinancing in order to support our growth objectives," the company stated.

Wells President and CEO Mike Wells said the ice cream maker is excited for the future.

"We will celebrate our 100th birthday next year and we truly believe that our best years are ahead of us," Wells said.

On Aug. 1, a spokesman for Plymouth County's largest employer confirmed Wells was "looking at all the options to secure capital to fund growth, before deciding which one was right."

At that time, a company spokesman declined to speculate on any specific outcome of the effort to raise money such as a sale of the business.

Wells' media statement Wednesday announced the completion of a "comprehensive strategic process" to raise capital.

Wells will not seek outside equity investors, the company stated.

"There will be no changes to the current ownership structure at this time -- Wells will remain privately held and a family-owned company, just as it has been for the last 100 years," the statement said.

The company with current sales of more than $1 billion dollars annually expects to complete the capital-raising efforts in early 2013.

A combination of factors was behind the decision to keep the business family-owned and refinance debt, according to Dave Smetter, Wells corporate and integrated marketing communications vice president.

"I think we're in a very strong financial position as a company," he said. "That, combined with very low interest rates in the market, some historically low, made it very attractive to fund our own debt through the credit markets."

Wells is in a solid position to get the capital needed to fund the growth of the company, he added.

Le Mars Mayor Dick Kirchoff said he was "extremely excited" about Wells' announcement Wednesday.

"We are also very excited that a quality company such as Wells Enterprises is still a family-owned and privately held company, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year in 2013," Kirchoff said.

He said Wells' board of directors and shareholders' decision means employment opportunities not only for Le Mars, but surrounding communities.

"The company and its team of workers are also very generous in giving back not only to the city of Le Mars, but also giving a tremendous amount of support in many ways to the community," Kirchoff said.

He also said he respected Wells management and board for the plans to be the No. 1 ice cream company.

"Here's another example of knowing where they want to go and how they plan to get there," Kirchoff said.

He credited Mike Wells for keeping the Le Mars Business Initiative Corporation (LBIC) board and staff "very informed of the progress" on efforts to raise capital for future growth.

LBIC is a local organization which works to help draw new industries to Le Mars or grow existing ones.

The LBIC truly appreciates the relationship between Wells Enterprises, the city and the community, said Neal Adler, LBIC director.

The decision by Wells Enterprises to remain a privately held and family-owned company ensures that this well established relationship will continue, Adler said.

"We applaud the Wells family for their ongoing commitment to corporate citizenship and to maintaining their vision to become the No. 1 ice cream company in America," he said. "While we prepare to celebrate their first 100 years; we also look forward to years of continued growth together."

The Le Mars mayor also extended best wishes to the company.

"This is a great piece of news and we certainly by all means wish Wells Enterprises, their board of directors, their management team and employees a great deal of success in reaching this goal of becoming the No. 1 ice cream company in the U.S.," Kirchoff said.

Wells employs 2,500 production, sales, office and support personnel.

The company has a corporate office and two ice cream plants in Le Mars, and an ice cream plant in St. George, Utah.

Employees of the company were notified of the decision Wednesday.

The company's president and CEO Mike Wells had been "very transparent" with employees keeping them informed through the process of looking at options to finance the ice cream and frozen novelty manufacturers' growth, Smetter said.

"I think, all in all, everybody's in support of the direction that we're going," he said.

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