Wednesday, March 13, 2013

East Coast Brokers and Packers files for bankruptcy

Less than a month after releasing plans to reevaluate its business with possible new partners, East Coast Brokers and Packers Inc. has declared bankruptcy.According to court records, the Mulberry, Fla.-based company’s owners Batista Madonia Sr., president and chief executive officer, and his wife, Evelyn Madonia, owe a variety of creditors more than $50 million in liens and judgments. One of Florida’s largest tomato grower-shippers, East Coast stopped growing tomatoes Florida tomatoes last fall. East Coast filed for bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Middle District of Florida in Tampa on March 6. On March 12, lawyers representing the Madonias filed a motion to consolidate the bankruptcy case with other cases involving closely intertwined companies. In addition to the East Coast Brokers packing and sales operation, the Madonias co-own companies including Circle M. Ranch Inc., a land and farming operation, and packinghouses Ruskin Vegetable Corp. and Byrd Foods of Virginia Inc.According to court records, the Madonias and their operations owe $46 million to MetLife Agricultural Investments, $5.6 million to Chicago wholesaler Anthony Marano Co., $443,000 to Georgia Pacific Corp., Atlanta, as well as state and federal governments and various other crop production services and suppliers. The state of Virginia has also asserted claims against the Madonias, according to court papers. The judge in the bankruptcy case has scheduled a March 28 status conference and a creditors meeting April 8. In 2012, East Coast, which also grew and shipped from the Eastern Shore of Virginia, planted 1,500 Florida tomato acres. The Madonia founded the company in 1956.

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