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Icelandic Bluefin Tuna Farmer Undergoes Ownership Shake-Up United States, January 2, 13

The U.S.-based bluefin tuna farming company, Umami Sustainable Seafood, has started the new year with significant changes to its ownership, after its Icelandic CEO and chairman resigned in December. The company has an annual turnover of about USD 100 million.

On Dec. 20, Daito Gyorui Co, a Japanese seafood distributor owned by Maruha Nichiro, acquired 13 million shares, or a 21.8% stake in Umami, when the tuna farmer failed to repay its loan to Daito. Atlantis Kabushiki Kaisha (AKK) – an affiliate of Umami - had previously secured the USD 31 million loan with a pledge of its 13 million shares in Umami.

Ten days earlier Robert Gudfinnsson from Iceand, CEO of Holshyrna and a former director of Umami’s operations in Mexico, took over 7 million shares or 11.7% of Umami. The shares were sold as collateral because Umami failed to fulfill an agreement made back in November 2010 related to its acquisition of Baja and Oceanic Enterprises in Mexico.

In total, Gudfinnsson now owns 10 million shares or about 16.8% of Umami’s total share capital.

Oli Valur Steindorsson, an Icelandic entrepreneur and former Umami CEO and chairman, left the company on Dec. 10. He had co-founded Atlantis – later renamed Umami – with Mike Gault in 2002. It was previously based in Iceland before its headquarters moved to San Diego, California. The Icelandic economy crashed in 2008 when its entirely banking system failed. In the years prior to this crash Icelandic companies with access to easy cash made extensive overseas investments. Since 2008 many of these investments have been sold off again.

Besides its operations in Mexico, Umami also has tuna farms in Croatia.