Here’s the news release from U S Sugar, released shortly after the SFWMD meetings this week.
SFWMD APPROVES HISTORIC DEAL TO EFFECT REAL AND MEANINGFUL RESTORATION OF FLORIDA’S EVERGLADES
CLEWISTON – (U S Sugar Corp.) — December 16, 2008 — After many months of tough negotiations and due diligence, the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board approved the contract to acquire 180,000 acres of U.S. Sugar’s land with one amendment. The amendment was a non-material modification within the authorized scope of the Company’s Board approval last week.
“Governor Crist not only had the vision to take this bold step toward true Everglades restoration, but he and the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board had the courage to actually make it happen,” said Robert Coker, senior vice president, public affairs.
“This has been a time of uncertainty, but now that the agreement has been signed, it should provide a greater degree of certainty for our employees, our stockholders and our communities,” Coker said. “We believe this deal serves the best strategic, long-term objectives of the Company and its stockholders.
“Some have criticized the transaction as not providing a sufficient return to U.S. Sugar stockholders while others have criticized the transaction as being too generous to U.S. Sugar stockholders. Without a doubt, we would not be doing this if we didn’t believe it was a fair deal for our stockholders,” Coker said. “In addition, this is a tremendous opportunity for our state and her people, and the government would not be doing this if they did not feel it was fair to them. This is a monumental opportunity to save the Everglades, and after many months of negotiations, we can now move forward.”
Although the Company will continue to farm the land and operate its businesses for at least seven years as defined in the contract, Coker said U.S. Sugar intends to work quickly and diligently with state and federal interests to put together an economic transition plan for the local communities.
Also, BMO Capital Markets, U.S. Sugar’s financial advisor, will begin a 60-day period to “shop” the Company and give other interested purchasers a chance to make a better offer. This includes the Lawrence Group, which has indicated an interest in the Company through correspondence and an aggressive media campaign but not yet made a legally binding offer.
“During the next 60 days, we will seek and consider any legitimate, bona fide offers and make sure that we have the best deal for our stockholders,” Coker said.