Purchase of Superior completed

May 20, 2013

The long-running, if quiet, purchase of the cattle industry’s leader in video auctions has finally happened. After almost two years in the making, the sale of Superior Livestock Auction (Superior) has been finalized.

Friday, May 10, National Livestock Credit (National) announced its acquisition of Superior. The purchase was made possible by a limited partnership between National and a number of cattlemen from a variety of states. By all accounts, little will change with Superior following the transition but the improved stability offered by the new owners.

The purchase was announced by both Superior and National and welcomed by the groups’ leadership. Jim Odle, co-founder and general manager of Superior, commented in the official announcement:

“I have had the privilege of meeting and getting to know Robert York and Danny Jones from National, and I truly believe that National is the ideal ownership group for Superior Livestock Auction. We share common goals and values and we look forward to working with them as we move forward to continue our legacy in the livestock marketing industry.”

Robert York, president and CEO of National, added, “We have admired the business model of Superior for many years. We have often had the opportunity to work with many of the representatives and employees of Superior since we share many mutual customer relationships. We have always viewed Superior as a company comprised of hard working people with the strongest integrity and we believe they work every day to achieve higher profits for their buyers and sellers. We couldn’t be more pleased to join forces.”

Joe Lichtie, vice president of Superior, called the move a “perfect alliance” and echoed the message that Superior was not going to change its industry-leading efforts. He praised the transition as a benefit to all stakeholders.

“Superior Livestock is thankful for the successful transition led by National and Farm Credit West throughout the acquisition of Superior. We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome for Superior Livestock, our representatives, employees and most importantly, our loyal customers.”

Lichtie also said the purchase has been a long time coming. Indeed, National had been selected from among a number of bids to buy Superior from Farm Credit West back in October 2011, according to Odle. The recent past has seen Superior change hands a few times.

According to an email sent out from Superior in November 2009, Superior co-founders Jim Odle, Buddy Jeffers and John McKinley sold the company to Dwight and Helen Mebane in June of 2007. In the intervening couple of years, the Mebanes “experienced financial hardship, and they relinquished their stock to Farm Credit West.”

It was at this point when Odle had been called back from retirement to be the general manager again.

“There’s no one in my opinion—and I’ve been in the industry forever—that would have been better to own the company than Farm Credit West when the bankruptcy happened,” Odle told WLJ. He described Farm Credit West as “not only behind Superior, but behind the industry,” when Superior was at risk. “They were tremendous people to work for.”

Odle also had glowing words for National. He pointed out that, since its Depression-era beginnings, National has had five presidents. “I don’t know any lending agency which has had that sort of stability over that length of time. It’s a tremendous thing.”

He described the selection of National’s bid not the highest bid, but the bid that would best ensure Superior remains true to its goals and its service to the industry. He also pointed out that while National is now the largest shareholder of Superior, it is not the only, nor even the majority, shareholder. Individual ranchers, including Odle, own shares in Superior. Odle said he wanted to hold onto a part of the company because he believes in it.

While the sale is big news for the world of cattle selling, many suggest the change may just be academic. In a video interview with Superior, Danny Jones—recent vice president of lending with National and now president of Superior—said the acquisition is not going to change anything.

“Our interest in Superior is not to change it. Our interest is to further enable Superior to continue to do what they’ve been able to do.”

He characterized Superior as the industry leader for price discovery.

“They are looked to as the leader in the industry to establish the market and that price discovery mechanism of the public auction being brought to the national stage... I can’t imagine any better mechanism than that.”

Others in the industry agree that very little will change and Superior will continue providing its excellent services undisturbed by the change of ownership.

“I think it will be an extremely seamless transaction,” said Troy Applehans, market analyst for Cattle- Fax. “I wouldn’t anticipate much of a shake up.”

Superior and National

Superior Livestock Auction was the first of its kind, bringing video auctions to the cattle industry in 1987. Since its beginning with satellite video auctions, Superior has grown to become the largest livestock market in the U.S., which markets over a million head of cattle annually. Superior has offices in Brush, CO, and Fort Worth, TX. Its auction facilities and production offices are also located in The Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District.

National Livestock Credit is part of a group of livestock service companies under the heading of the National Livestock Commission Association. The groups’ roots date back to 1931—with National Livestock Credit specifically dating back to 1932—and have historically served livestock communities through the marketing and financing of livestock. National Livestock Credit’s headquarters are in the Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City, OK. — Kerry Halladay, WLJ Editor