NEW YORK - The future of Twinkies is virtually assured.
Hostess Brands Inc. got final approval for its wind-down plans in Bankruptcy Court on Thursday, setting the stage for its snack cakes to find a second life with new owners - even as 18,000 jobs will be wiped out, including 400 at the Hostess plant in Northeast Philadelphia.
The company said in court that it was in talks with 110 potential buyers for its brands, which include CupCakes, Ding Dongs, and Ho Ho's. The suitors include at least five national retailers such as supermarkets, a financial adviser for Hostess said. The process has been "so fast and furious," Hostess wasn't able to make its planned calls to potential buyers, said Joshua Scherer of Perella Weinberg Partners.
"Not only are these buyers serious, but they are expecting to spend substantial sums," he said, noting that six of them had hired investment banks to help in the process.
The update on the sale process came as Hostess also received approval to give its top executives bonuses totaling up to $1.8 million for meeting certain budget goals to bring down costs during the liquidation.
The company says the incentive pay is needed to retain the 19 corporate officers and "high-level managers" during the wind-down process, which could take about a year.
The bonuses do not include pay for CEO Gregory Rayburn, who was brought on as a restructuring expert earlier this year. Rayburn is being paid $125,000 a month.
Hostess was given interim approval for its wind-down last week, which gave the company the legal protection to immediately fire 15,000 union workers. About 3,200 employees are being retained to help in winding down operations, including 237 employees at the corporate level.
The bakers' union, Hostess' second-largest union, has asked the judge to appoint an independent trustee to oversee the liquidation, saying that the current management "has been woefully unsuccessful in its reorganization attempts."
Hostess had already said last week that it was getting a flood of interest from potential buyers for its brands, which also include Devil Dogs and Wonder Bread.
"The longer these brands are off the shelves, the less they're going to be valued," Scherer said Thursday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York in White Plains.
Although Hostess sales have been declining over the years, they still clock in at between $2.3 billion and $2.4 billion a year.
Scherer also said a surprising number of potential buyers had expressed interest in most of its three dozen factories.