Adieu, Twinkies, at least for now. Hostess Brands said Friday it has asked a court's OK to liquidate the company, spelling the possible end for the iconic, yellow, cream-filled delight.
The move shuts down one of the nation's oldest and largest producers of baked goods. Founded in 1930, it produces such well-known brands, aside from Twinkies, as Ding-Dongs, Ho Ho's, Sno Balls and Donettes, not to mention Wonder bread, which the company says is the best-selling white bread in the United States.
In a statement, Hostess said its bakery operations have been suspended at all plants and that it would lay off most of its 18,500 workers to focus on selling its assets. It said it has filed a motion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking permission to close its business and sell its assets, including 33 bakeries and 565 distribution centers.
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Among those assets: the recipes for its well-known brands, especially the spongy Twinkie, which holds a special place in America's culinary history. Over the years, it has been vilified by nutritionists, but it remains widely loved by snackers.
It even entered into U.S. legal history as the so-called "Twinkie defense," used by lawyers for former San Francisco city supervisor Dan White in his trial for the 1978 murder of Mayor George Moscone and city supervisor Harvey Milk. The legal team successfully argued that White's consumption of mass amounts of junk food, including Twinkies, was a symptom of the depression that led to his shooting of Moscone and Milk. White was found guilty of manslaughter, a lesser charge.
CEO and chairman Gregory F. Rayburn told CNBC that he was hopeful the company could sell its brands.
He told TODAY that the move was not a negotiating ploy. "It's over. This is it," he said.
The company said it would continue to deliver products and its stores would remain open for several days to sell already-baked products.
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"The Board of Directors authorized the wind down of Hostess Brands to preserve and maximize the value of the estate after one of the company's largest unions, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), initiated a nationwide strike that crippled the company's ability to produce and deliver products at multiple facilities," Hostess said in the statement.
On Nov. 12, Hostess permanently closed three plants because of the strike. Two days later, the company announced that it would be forced to liquidate if enough workers did not return to restore normal operations by 5 p.m. ET Thursday.
"We deeply regret the necessity of today's decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike," said Rayburn.
The BCTGM was not immediately available to comment. But Reuters reported that Union President Frank Hurt blamed the company, saying it was kowtowing to Wall Street investors who have wanted to break up Hostess.
Workers were still staffing picket lines early Friday.
A quick search of eBay showed people offering boxes of Twinkies for a range of prices -- from $5.00 a box to as much as $500.
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