ADFA: Yarnell's Continues to Seek Buyer for Searcy Plant

"Several entities" have said they are interested in acquiring and operating the Yarnell Ice Cream Co.'s plant in Searcy, according to the Arkansas Development Finance Authority.

"Company representatives at Yarnell's have indicated that although operations have ceased, efforts to market the company are ongoing," Gene Eagle, vice president of development finance for ADFA, said in an email to Arkansas Business on Thursday.

"Needless to say, due to the extremely sensitive nature of these negotiations, each party must execute a Non-Disclosure (Confidentiality) Agreement to protect the parties involved."

Eagle did not give details about the entities that might be interested in the company's operations. 

Eagle's email came after Arkansas Business and other media requested access to ADFA's records on Yarnell's. Eagle said those files and records, if disclosed, "would give advantage to competitors or bidders."

Executives with Yarnell's have declined to talk to Arkansas Business about its operations.

On June 30, Yarnell's said it was ceasing operations after 79 years. The move left its 200 workers -- most of whom worked in Searcy --unemployed.

ADFA has been working with Yarnell's as far back as 2000, when stepped in to replace a national bank as guarantor on a $2.6 million bond issue by the city of Searcy.

"That national bank had chosen to terminate their banking relationship with Yarnell's. If ADFA had not stepped in and assumed that role as guarantor on the city's bond issue, the company might have been forced to close at that time, idling 230 employees," Eagle told Arkansas Business last week.

Yarnell's also owes almost $1.96 million on a $2.5 million taxable bonds issue by ADFA in July 2006.

In a news release on June 30 announcing the closing, Yarnell's CEO Christina Yarnell said the company had "examined many possible avenues to keep the company afloat - actively marketing the company to investors and strategic buyers - the majority of whom are undergoing the same financial distress we are.

"However, we've been unable to obtain additional financing from our lenders or locate a buyer, and have come to the difficult decision that the appropriate course of action is to shut our doors," she said.