Butterball could have a new parent before Thanksgiving.
The world's largest turkey company, which moved its corporate headquarters to Garner in 2008, is a joint venture of Maxwell Farms and Smithfield Foods.
But Smithfield, which owns 49 percent of Butterball, isn't happy with the arrangement.
On Thursday, the company announced that it has offered about $200 million to buy Maxwell's 51 percent stake. If Maxwell isn't interested in selling, Smithfield plans to unload its share of Butterball.
Smithfield wants a decision by mid-September.
"We strongly believe we need full control of Butterball in order to improve its performance, or we need to exit and redeploy these resources in other, more profitable" opportunities, said Smithfield CEO Larry Pope, on a conference call with Wall Street analysts.
"We want in or out," he added. "We believe this is a tremendous household brand that has not been adequately supported."
Maxwell president Walter Pelletier told the Wall Street Journal that his company has no plans to walk away from Butterball. "We believe in the long-term business outlook of Butterball, and we are currently pursuing several opportunities that will allow us to proceed with our desire to be the buyer of Butterball."
Pelletier couldn't be reached for further comment. Maxwell is a division of Goldsboro Milling Co.
Caught in the middle of the parental squabble, Butterball CEO Keith Shoemaker declined to discuss the situation on Friday. In a prepared statement, he noted: “This transaction is between ownership, and we cannot comment at this time.”
Butterball employs about 75 people at its headquarters in Garner's Greenfield North business park, near the intersection of Interstate 40 and U.S. 70. The company employs about 4,500 nationwide, including at massive plants in Mount Olive and Kinston.