A deal has been agreed for the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes to be bought by Canadian-based dairy firm Saputo.
The company has announced this afternoon it has agreed to pay £23m for Wensleydale Dairy Products Limited, which owns the creamery in Hawes.
The makers of Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese, which will join Saputo’s Dairy Division (UK), also operates a plant at Kirkby Malzeard, near Ripon, and employs around 210 people.
The purchase price of £23 million is on a “cash-free and debt-free basis” and will be paid in cash at closing of the deal, the buyers have said.
“Wensleydale Dairy Products is home to an immense amount of passion, care, and tradition,” said Lino A Saputo, chair of the board and chief executive officer of Saputo Inc.
“Not only is it a well-established British business with high-quality products and award-winning cheeses, but our corporate cultures are well-aligned, and I’m delighted to welcome the entire team into the Saputo family.”
The buyers say that subject to UK regulatory requirements, the transaction is expected to close in the second half of July.
Rumours of a takeover by Saputo emerged earlier this year but were denied by bosses at the Hawes business.
Cheese has been made in Wensleydale since 1150 when French Cistercian monks first settled in the area.
The first creamery was built in Hawes in 1897.
The business suffered due to the industrial depression in the 1930s.
However, in 1935, local man Kit Calvert rallied support and the business was saved.
It was then sold to the Milk Marketing Board, later Dairy Crest, in 1979.
The business closed in 1992 but was bought six months later by a group of former creamery managers led by David Hartley.
Mr Hartley sadly died in December last year after a long battle with cancer.
Today, Wensleydale Dairy Products manufactures, blends, markets, and distributes a variety of specialty and regional cheeses, including Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese, which Saputo said would complement and broaden the company’s existing range of British cheeses, including Cathedral City and Davidstow cheddars.
The business sources its milk from 40 local farms and uses its own unique cheesemaking starter cultures.
Jill McMullon, district councillor and chair of Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council, paid tribute to Mr Hartley and the work he and others had done to save the creamery.
She added: “David Hartley did an amazing job building a world wide reputation for the Wensleydale Creamery and it is obviously now a new chapter in its life.
“We look forward to it’s continued success.
“Most of its workforce are local and live in Hawes and I’m delighted to hear there will be security for such a dedicated and hard working team.”