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Pinnacle Foods to shut Birds Eye operation here, lay off 205

The new owner of Birds Eye Foods Inc. has filed notice with the state of New York that it plans to close its operation here, laying off its 205 workers.

Pinnacle Foods Group LLC filed the notice last week with state Labor Department. The filing states the layoffs will occur from May 31 to Dec. 31, with the closing date of the plant set for July 15.

The company plans to merge the local facility to Pinnacle’s New Jersey location.

The story was first reported by the Rochester Business Journal’s news partner, WHEC TV-10.

Pinnacle Foods Group, a manufacturer of brands including Duncan Hines, Vlasic and Mrs. Butterworth’s, in November said it had signed an agreement to purchase Birds Eye for some $1.3 billion. The deal closed in December.

The former Birds Eye headquarters is in the Linden Oaks Office Park in Penfield. It employs 1,700 people at various across the United States. The firm logs annual sales of more than $930 million.

In October, Birds Eye had filed for an initial public offering to raise up to $350 million. As a result of the purchase agreement, the planned public offering of Birds Eye Foods stock was withdrawn.

Pinnacle Foods is owned by private-equity funds controlled by New Jersey-based the Blackstone Group.

Company officials did not immediately respond for a request for comment.

The company had declined since the deal was announced to comment about any plans for the former Birds Eye operations.

State leaders, including Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., have asked the company to keep local operations in place. Birds Eye also has a plant in Fulton, Oswego County.

Blackstone’s private equity group recorded year-end sales of $775.2 million, compared with revenues of a negative $286.2 million for 2008. Company leaders said the results benefited from increased transactions, particularly during the second half of the year, including an investment in Birds Eye.

(c) 2009 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.

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