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Keyes bought by Chicago investment group

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Juan Delacruz removes egg trays from the production line to prepare them for packaging and shipment at Keyes Fibre in Wenatchee.

WENATCHEE — The 115-employee Keyes Packaging Group, a world leader in molded-fiber packaging for fruit and wine, has been bought by a Chicago-based investment group.

The sale to Arbor Investments — which specializes in food, beverage and packaging companies — closed Friday after a month of negotiations with owner Tricor Pacific Capital, said Keyes execs. The sale was announced publicly this morning and terms were not disclosed.

Purchase of Keyes, with its Keyes Fibre facility here and a smaller plant in Yakima, means the 110-year-old company will receive the financial investment it needs to keep pace with the fast-growing fruit and wine industries, said Ross Riedinger, the company’s vice-president of sales and marketing.

Few changes in the company’s management, workforce or products are expected due to the sale, said Riedinger. Arbor’s investment in Keyes could produce added capacity that would mean adding employees, but those plans aren’t yet firm, he added.

This acquisition is excellent for both the company and the employees,” said Riedinger. “We believe everybody wins.”

Keyes uses recycled paper and other fibers to produce molded trays for shipping fruit, eggs, vegetables and wine bottles.

For more than a year, the 115-employee company has been operating at peak capacity to meet demands of record-breaking apple and cherry harvests, company officials said earlier this year. In addition, the company’s egg-shipping trays have been in high demand since being introduced last summer, while its wine packaging has become a standard in the growing Northwest wine industry.

We were attracted to Keyes due to the company’s excellent market position, superior product quality and unparalleled reputation in the packaging industry,” Richard Boos of Arbor Investments said in a press release. Keyes “has expanded profitably under the ownership of Tricor, and we’re thrilled to partner with the management team in their next phase of growth.”

Keyes CEO Rebecca Kalis said, “Arbor’s extensive experience in the food, beverage and packaging industries make them a perfect partner for Keyes. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished during the last several years and are looking forward to teaming with Arbor to move Keyes forward in its next chapter.”

Keyes has been owned since 2004 by Tricor, an equity firm with offices in Chicago and Vancouver, B.C. Arbor Investments is also a private equity firm that focuses on acquiring food, beverage and packaging companies. Since 1999, the firm has bought or invested in over 30 food and beverage companies in North America and currently has $600 million of assets under management.