Thai seafood giant hooks San Diego-based Bumble Bee tuna

San Diego-based Bumble Bee Seafoods is being scooped up by the world's largest canned seafood company.

Thai Union Frozen Products, based in Bangkok, Thailand, is buying the Southern California company for $1.51 billion from private equity firm Lion Capital, which purchased Bumble Bee in 2010.


Bumble Bee was founded in 1899 and has its headquarters in downtown San Diego, near Petco Park. According to Thai Union, Bumble Bee has annual sales of about $1 billion and employs more than 1,300 people.

San Diego was once home to a thriving tuna industry, which employed or supported 40,000 jobs from the 1920s to the 1970s, according to University of San Diego economics professor Alan Gin.

Since then, it's been in steady decline, hammered by environmental concerns and cheap foreign competition, Gin said.

Today, "basically you got the headquarters," he said.

That includes the base for Bumble Bee competitor Chicken of the Sea, which is owned by Thai Union.

In addition to its iconic brand, Bumble Bee sells foods under the Brunswick and Wild Selections labels. The company formed in 1899 when a group of Oregon canners created the Columbia River Packers Assn.

The Bumble Bee brand emerged in 1910.

Thai Union and Bumble Bee said they expect the deal to close in the second half of 2015. It must first, however, receive approval from U.S. antitrust authorities, Thai Union said.

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