Mar 28, 2024 - News

Cooks Venture gets $70M line of credit, but future unclear

Illustration of money surrounded by abstract shapes.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Editor's note: This is part 3 of a series about the sudden suspension of operations by Cooks Venture of Decatur.

Executive vice president Blake Evans "stepped in as a manager" of the defunct Cooks Venture poultry company in November and still runs what's left of it, he told Axios by phone.

  • Soon after closing, the company received a $70 million line of credit. It's not clear how the money is being used.

Why it matters: Questions remain about how the company used its capital; why it suddenly ceased operations, leaving farmers and employees floundering; and what it will do with its tangible assets.

  • Its investors, who provided an estimated $150 million, are without any immediate means of repayment.

State of play: Aside from some skeleton operations, Cooks Venture stopped functioning as a poultry company but still owns millions of dollars in land and buildings in Decatur and Oklahoma.

  • And, there's an estimated multimillion-dollar value in its proprietary chicken breed, the Pioneer.

What we're hearing: Community conversations have circulated in recent weeks about Cooks Venture being sold, but Evans wouldn't confirm it with Axios and neither would a potential buyer when reached by phone.

Follow the money: Cooks Venture received the line of credit in December using its Jay, Oklahoma, property as collateral. A subsidiary of insurance brokerage and consulting firm Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. is listed as the primary lender.

The intrigue: Cherokee Temps, a staffing service in Muskogee, Oklahoma, filed a $150,631 lien against the same property in November for nonpayment of a labor contract.

Between the lines: A different subsidiary of Gallagher helped Cooks land a $50 million loan in 2022 backed by its intellectual property, the Pioneer bird.

What he's saying: "I've been advised by our counsel — I really cannot comment on anything at all at this stage related to anything," Evans told Axios last week.

  • "It's a lot of moving parts and things like that, right?"

Behind the scenes: Cooks Venture continues to raise pedigree birds to preserve the genetics of its breed, people familiar with the company have told Axios.

  • Evans didn't respond to an emailed question about how the resulting eggs are disposed of or sold.

The bottom line: He also declined to say how the $70 million line of credit is being used or if the company will honor any debts owed contract farmers and others.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios NW Arkansas.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More NW Arkansas stories

No stories could be found

NW Arkansaspostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios NW Arkansas.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more