Bob Evans, the family-dining chain that dots highways across America, is getting out of the restaurant business to focus on food processing. And it’s taking an Aroostook County potato company along with it.

In a two-part transaction, Bob Evans Farms Inc. sold off its chain of restaurants Tuesday to an affiliate of Golden Gate Capital for $565 million, according to a news release posted on the Ohio company’s website. On the same day, it signed an agreement to acquire Pineland Farms Potato Co. in Mars Hill for $115 million.

In its release, the company said the deals start a new era for Bob Evans, where it can focus exclusively on its growing food processing business.

“BEF Foods is the national market share leader in refrigerated dinner side dishes, and is also the market share leader in sausage products in its core Midwest markets,” said the release. “The new Bob Evans, further strengthened by the manufacturing and intellectual capital of (Pineland Farms Potato Co.), is positioned to be a higher profit and higher growth company that is expected to provide better returns to shareholders and an enhanced product line for customers.”

The deal is expected to benefit the potato farm, in which the Libra Foundation has been the principal investor.

“We have made tremendous strides in Maine, but there are practical limitations on how much further current owners would be able to take this business,” William Haggett, chairman and CEO of Pineland Farms Potato Co., said in a news release. “Bob Evans’ ownership adds new dimensions which will greatly strengthen the company to the long-term benefit of employees, potato growers, the economy of northern Maine and our superb customer base.”

Rodney McCrum, the president and chief operating officer of Pineland Farms Potato Co. – or PFPC – and the entire staff are expected to continue their roles as the management team of the company.

PFPC, which produces variety of refrigerated potato products, has done business with Bob Evans since 2002. The deal is expected to close in May.

Craig Denekas, CEO and chairman of Libra Foundation, said the hard work of the Pineland Farms staff brought it national recognition.

“Our investment in the potato company some years ago was intended to build a first-class Maine potato business, to provide a value-added outlet for area growers and to create good jobs,” he said in the news release. “We couldn’t be more pleased with an outcome that propels all facets of company on to the next level nationally.”

The deal will not affect operations at Pineland Farms’ natural meats company, its cheese operations or the business real estate/farm campuses in New Gloucester and Gray.

An additional $25 million could be paid for the potato company over the next two years if certain financial goals are met, according to the Bob Evans release.

Pineland Farms has been making improvements and expanding since 2010 when Libra became a partner in the ownership.

Saed Mohseni, CEO of Bob Evans Farms, said the food processing division of the company has been its most profitable and fastest-growing.

He noted that the acquisition gives Bob Evans the capability to produce and sell diced and shredded potato products in both the retail and food service markets. The acquisition also diversifies the company’s production capability by adding a second state-of-the-art potato processing facility with 180 million pounds of capacity, 50 million pounds of which are expected to come on line in April.

“Furthermore, PFPC comes with a 900-acre potato farm and is surrounded by an additional 55,000-plus acres of annual potato production,” Mohseni said in the release. “Its close proximity to tens of thousands of acres of potato production is particularly attractive as it greatly reduces transportation costs.”

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