US tobacco cooperative emerges from bankruptcy

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Logo: United States Tobacco Cooperative

RALEIGH, North Carolina — US Tobacco Cooperative Inc. (USTC) emerged from bankruptcy on July 14, pursuant to federal bankruptcy court approval of the tobacco processor’s Chapter 11 reorganization plan, as well as approval of settlement terms of the Lewis class action lawsuit.

The USTC originally filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2021 to meet its contractual obligations to its producer members while the company deals with the uncertainty presented by the ongoing lawsuit.

“Today’s exit from bankruptcy marks the end of more than 17 years of class action lawsuits following the end of the federal price support program that lasted from 1946 to 2005,” said Oscar House, CEO of the USTC. “Our exit now allows us to focus only on the services and products for which our cooperative is recognized. I would like to thank our customers, our employees, our suppliers, our board of directors and especially our producer members for their continued support throughout the bankruptcy process, which is now officially behind us.

Under the plan, the co-op pays its secured lenders, suppliers and unsecured creditors in full in addition to settlement amounts to the Lewis Group.

“We’re under tension,” House said. “Our business is robust with our farmer members contracting for this fall’s harvest, customers ordering our products and shipments processing daily. With our experienced management team, dedicated employees and strong market position, the cooperative is poised for a prosperous future.

USTC is a producer-owned marketing cooperative based in Raleigh, North Carolina. The cooperative processes American air-cured tobacco grown by its more than 500 member growers in North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia. Tobacco from producer members is processed and sold as raw material to cigarette manufacturers around the world. USTC subsidiaries include US Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers, Premier Manufacturing, Franchise Wholesale (dba Wildhorse Distributing), Big South Distribution, and King Maker Marketing. USTC, through its subsidiaries, also manufactures consumer products for the US market under the Wildhorse, 1839, Manitou, Shield, 1st Class, Ultra Buy and Traffic brands.

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