Hostess Twinkies Set to Return, Union Laborers Won't

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By Jason Bramwell

UPDATE: Fans of Twinkies won't have to wait much longer before the snack cakes return to grocery store shelves.

According to an April 25 article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Hostess Brands LLC – Metropoulos & Co. and Apollo Global Management's new incarnation of the baking company that liquidated in Chapter 11 – is reopening four bakeries in the next eight to ten weeks in an effort to get the Twinkie back in consumers' hands – and stomachs – starting in July.

The four bakeries will be located in Columbus, Georgia; Emporia, Kansas; Schiller Park, Illinois; and Indianapolis, Indiana. A fifth plant in Los Angeles is being contemplated, according to an April 26 ABC News report

Chief Executive C. Dean Metropoulos says the company will pump $60 million in capital investments into the bakeries between now and September and aims to hire at least 1,500 workers, according to the WSJ. However, those employees won't be unionized, the article states.

By David Gianatasio

Donald Sheridan's quest to acquire Hostess Brands Inc. (Hostess) – the maker of Twinkies, Wonder Bread, and other baked goods – is a sweet dream that says a lot about the resilience of the human spirit and our desire to succeed despite tough odds.

To call Sheridan's bid a long shot would be an understatement. The fifty-nine year old from Wellesley, Massachusetts, has never run a company, has no background in management or finance, and zero capital to invest. He completed about half the work required to earn an accounting degree at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and in the mid-1990s, worked as a part-time bookkeeper for some local construction firms.

Sheridan suffers from cerebral palsy and says he's been unemployed for seventeen years, subsisting mainly on government subsidies.

The guy's clearly been struggling for a long time.

The exact same thing can be said of Hostess. In November, following a crippling national strike by its bakery workers, the eighty-two-year-old company obtained court permission to begin winding down its business. Hostess had filed for bankruptcy in January for the second time since 2004. 

Now, the Irving, Texas–based concern will lay off most of its 18,500 employees and close 33 bakeries, 565 distribution centers, and 570 outlet stores.

Hostess intends to auction off its brands, including its cream-filled, sponge cake Twinkies; snow-white Wonder Bread; and chocolaty, cream-filled Ho Hos and Ding Dongs.

Sheridan put himself in the mix last week, garnering considerable national attention by submitting a four-page, handwritten bid for Hostess to CEO Gregory Rayburn and Judge Robert Drain of US Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, New York.

"I've wanted to own a business for the last twenty years. I could run Hostess and do a good job", Sheridan told AccountingWEB.

"It's a good company and a good product, and there's demand for that product", he said. "But it's a poorly managed company. I can see where the problem is. They spent too much money on things that have nothing to do with the business."

He added",With a little arm-twisting, you could correct the situation"; a statement directed at the inability of Hostess and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union to reach an accord after labor went on strike November 9, essentially dealing the company a deathblow, according to Hostess.

Sheridan wouldn't get specific about how he'd help the bakery rise again – and given his background, it's doubtful, to say the least, that he'll get the chance to try. 

Still, investment bank Perella Weinberg Partners, which is leading the asset auction, is required to take all bids seriously and has sent Sheridan a confidentiality form, which is the next step in the bid process.

"I'm signing the agreement soon and putting together a rough proposal", he said. "It's basic . . . it's simple . . . I can't tell you any more than that."

Sheridan says he has no "easy access" to the Internet and plans to send a more detailed bid for Hostess via the US Postal Service soon. "I'm working on it", he said. "I'm taking it one day at a time."

He insisted that he's serious about running Hostess and doesn't want his bid – as low-tech and offbeat as it may seem – to be taken lightly. (The company's been such a mess for so long, who's to say Sheridan could do any worse?)

For now, he's become a minor media star, earning write ups in the New York Post and, he said, fielding calls from news producers clamoring for him to tell his story on TV. "I'm totally flabbergasted", he said. "The whole thing with the media – I never expected it."

"Maybe there'll be a job offer" from an employer of any kind. "I'm kind of hoping for that", Sheridan said.

Sheridan's played the game like any smart businessperson – chasing his dream with everything he's got and looking to milk the publicity for all it's worth.

That he targeted Hostess, a quintessential American brand, seems especially apropos.

What Sheridan lacks in practical experience, he more than makes up for in can-do spirit and surprising media savvy for someone who's not even online.

Perhaps that exposure will lead to some positive changes in his life, even if he doesn't wind up in a corner office with the Hostess' C-suite and the exclusive right to manufacture Twinkies.



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