Feb 27, 2024
Central Valley fruit, nut grower considers sale

The Assemi family, a large California Central Valley grower and processor of pistachios and almonds, as well as blueberries and cherries, may be planning to leave the growing side of the business, according to a media report.

A report in the San Joaquin Valley Sun states the Assemis, which own Maricopa Orchards, the Assemi’s principal farming name, and Touchstone Pistachio Co., plans to divest its California farming operations. The reported sale comes in the midst of a family legal spat.

Assemi Group Farid Assemi is the family’s patriarch who led the Fresno, California-based Assemi’s farming operations. He is reported to be in declining health and faces a legal battle among family members over the control of the business. The family fight is reported as intense.

The publication bases its report on a leak of a confidential presentation for potential buyers.

The Assemi Group Inc. describes itself as “an industry leader in land acquisition, land development, home building, farming, medical education.”

The Assemi growing and processing operation is considered one of the region’s largest and seeking a buyer for thousands of acres of farmland, as well as Touchstone, a leading nut processor. Maricopa grows pistachios and almonds on 52,000 acres while Touchstone is the packing and shipping division, which also includes a processing facility in Terra Bella, California, and one planned in Fresno County, according to the report.

Maricopa also grows or has grown other fresh fruit and tree nut crops, including blueberries, cherries, raisins, walnuts and citrus.

Maricopa OrchardsThe combined company on the market is being called “Project Green” by the Assemis and Cascadia Capital, the investment bank the Assemis are using to sell the company, according to the report. The combined entities and their assets are valued at $2 billion, according to the report.

The Assemi’s combined hulling and drying capacity is 60 million pounds, with storage at 73 million pounds and a processing capacity at 75 million pounds, according to the report. Maricopa Orchards sits on water rights spanning seven Central Valley water districts.

Of the 52,000 acres, 28,000 acres are planted with almond and pistachio trees. The land for sale also includes around 10,000 acres of fallow ground hosting solar panels, according to the report.

In 1989, the Assemis started Maricopa Orchards and after leaving The Wonderful Co., constructed Touchstone in 2019. In 2023, a jury awarded the Assemis $39 million when the family sued Stewart Resnik, Wonderful’s chairperson, for not paying a 2018 grower bonus. The jury also awarded Wonderful $11.4 million because the family did not deliver pistachios in 2019, according to the report.

After the verdict, Farid Assemi’s son Kevin and Assemi Group’s former president and Maricopa Orchards’ CEO, sued the family alleging numerous civil claims, including breach of contract, unfair business practices, wrongful termination and malpractice, according to the report.

In the lawsuit, Kevin Assemi stated Farid was diagnosed with a brain tumor and Cerebral Degenerative Ataxia.

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