By Tim Krohn
LE SUEUR — The Davis family of Le Sueur, which owns Cambria quartz countertops and Davisco Foods, has purchased Sun Country Airlines, which was in bankruptcy.
“We learned that the industry is a good investment if you run the business well,” said Marty Davis, president and CEO of Cambria.
“It’s a Minnesota airline and that attracted us. Keeping it part of Minnesota was compelling to us.”
Davis said he got to know Sun Country CEO Stan Gadek and was impressed with him, the management team and employees at Sun Country.
“We’ve been looking at it since last September and really started focusing on it in January,” Davis said. “I talked to my dad, my mom and siblings and we got involved.”
Cambria Holdings Inc. purchased the Mendota Heights-based airline for an undisclosed price after lengthy negotiations and an auction in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in St. Paul.
Bankruptcy trustee Doug Kelley told the Star Tribune the selling price was “substantially above” a $24 million floor price he set for the airline when he put Sun Country up for sale earlier this year.
The airline was once part of Tom Petters’ empire, prior to his business collapse in a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme.
Sun Country entered bankruptcy protection just before Petters’ fall, cut its expenses and emerged from bankruptcy last February.
It reported profits of $13 million last year after combined losses of nearly $60 million in 2007 and 2008. The airline posted a profit of $1.4 million in 2009.
Sun Country employs 850 and has 12 aircraft. It primarily concentrates on charter vacation flights for Minnesotans heading south and scheduled flights to business destinations.
A statement from Sun Country said there will be no changes to the operations or management of the 30-year-old business and said the company intends to expand domestic and international flights.
Davis said expansion plans will be left to Gadek. “We’ll be strong supporters as owners, but those decisions will be Stan Gadek’s. We’re not going to meddle.”
The Davis family businesses began in 1943 when Stanley Davis purchased the St. Peter Creamery and eventually founded Davisco Foods International, a cheese and food ingredient company. They are one of the largest suppliers of cheese to Kraft Foods. Davisco has plants in Minnesota, Idaho, and South Dakota, as well as sales offices in Mexico and Switzerland.
The family also operates the Cambria countertop plant near Le Sueur, the only producers of quartz surfaces in the country. Cambria employs 600 people.
Mark Davis, Marty’s father, is chairman of the company.
The family also owns large dairy operations in the area, operated by Marty’s brothers Matt, Mitch and Jon.