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Two of the Valley’s largest agribusiness giants announce ‘historic’ merger

CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE Prima Peach consumer packaging from Gerawan Farming is seen in action during the Fresno Food Expo new products/People’s Choice award event at the Painted Table in Fresno Thursday, February 28, 2013.
CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE Prima Peach consumer packaging from Gerawan Farming is seen in action during the Fresno Food Expo new products/People’s Choice award event at the Painted Table in Fresno Thursday, February 28, 2013. Fresno Bee Staff Photo

Two of the Central San Joaquin Valley’s largest agribusiness companies — Fresno-based Gerawan Farming and Cutler-based Wawona Packing — have merged.

The merger of the two major fruit growing and packing companies was announced in a Wednesday news release.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The combined company will be led by Dan Gerawan, who will be the merged company’s chief executive officer and largest individual shareholder, the release said.

Paine Schwartz, a Wawona investor, is partnering with both companies to help facilitate the transaction.

“The merger builds upon the legacies and reputations of the two industry-leading companies and creates an enhanced platform for growth and innovation,” the companies said in the release.

“The combined business will be able to better serve its customers and create significant opportunities for employees.”

Gerawan is a fresh fruit company that sells under the Prima brand.

Brent Smittcamp, executive chairman of Wawona, will remain as a shareholder and will continue to be involved in the merged company, the release said.

The new management team will include leaders from both companies. Smittcamp said Wawona had focused on accelerating its growth by building on the company’s strengths over the last few years.

“Our acquisition last year of Burchell Nursery Inc. was one example, and now this historic merger with Gerawan takes it to yet another level,” he said in the statement.

“We are eager to bring the benefits of this merger to our employees, suppliers and customers.”

As of August, Gerawan Farming listed 200 employees, and Wawona listed 1,400, according to database searches.

Company officials didn’t say whether the merger will impact employees. A posting on Gerawan’s Facebook page last week said the company is hiring.

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