Town, residents shocked by news that Smithfield Foods is being sold

Posted at 5:50 PM, May 29, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-29 17:54:32-04

Smithfield, Va. - The news that Smithfield Foods is being sold caught the entire town of Smithfield by surprise.

Even the mayor had no idea.  He found out while watching the morning news.

“It really surprised me.  It did.  It was a shock actually,” said Mayor T. Carter Williams.

Smithfield Foods, the country's largest pork producer, made the announcement Wednesday morning, saying in a news release that an agreement has been reached for Shuanghui International to purchase the company in a multi-billion dollar deal.

Shuanghui is a leading pork producer in China.

They'll be purchasing shares and once the deal is approved, it will no longer be a publicly traded company.

Patsy Privott, a local business owner, says it has her worried about what it all means.

“I worry about the town and tourism and even Paula Deen’s southern connection,” said Privott.

But first on her mind, she says, is the workers.

Mayor Williams says he had the same thought, especially since his wife works there.

“[This morning] they were just walking around like ‘whoa what’s going to happen to us?’”

Williams says after talking to one of their executives, he's more optimistic.  They tell him business will continue as normal.

“They’re real excited about it, think it’ll be a real plus for Smithfield Foods, and if it’s a real plus for Smithfield Foods, then it’s going to be a big plus for Smithfield the town,” said Williams.

According to a news release from Smithfield Foods, none of the facilities will close and the existing management team will remain in place.  Shuanghui has also pledged to maintain the headquarters in Smithfield.

Even so, not everyone is thrilled to see a company that's so tied to their town owned by a foreign company.

“I think that we need to keep business in America,” said Privott.

The deal is still subject to regulatory and shareholder approval.  It’s expected to close in the second half of this year.