Trident founder Chuck Bundrant remembered as industry risk-taker who emphasized personal connections

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Trident founder Chuck Bundrant remembered as industry risk-taker who emphasized personal connections
Trident founder Chuck Bundrant remembered as industry risk-taker who emphasized personal connections

Chuck Bundrant along with his son Joe in Bristol Bay on the Naknek River in 2019 (above) and on the Nushagak in 1979. (Courtesy Joe Bundrant)

Chunk Bundrant, one of many founders of America’s largest fish firm Trident, died final month.

He began out as a deckhand on a crab boat in Alaska within the Nineteen Sixties and have become one of the crucial influential seafood managers on the planet.

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At this time, Seattle-based Trident Seafoods owns greater than 40 vessels and operates vegetation in practically a dozen communities in Alaska.

However on the age of 19, Bundrant had no intention of constructing a residing within the fishing trade when he obtained his first deckhand job.

“He was a veterinarian in Center Tennessee, and he – , it is costly,” mentioned his son Joe, who has been Trident’s CEO since 2013.

Bundrant wished a job that will pay for his training. So in 1961 he drove from Indiana to Seattle, the place he obtained a sailor job.

“No, he by no means went again to varsity – by no means once more to varsity,” his son Joe mentioned with amusing. “The toughest working particular person. I’ve met lots of people in my life, loads of actually nice folks. However I’ve by no means met anybody on the planet who’s superior to this man. By no means.”

Bundrant and two different fishermen, Kaare Ness and Mike Jacobson, based Trident in 1973 with a ship, the 135-foot Billikin, which the corporate mentioned was the primary Alaska vessel to catch, course of, and freeze crabs at sea.

“They really extracted the entire meat from the shell,” mentioned Joe. “Put within the 15-pound John container and we’ll have it frozen.”

On the time, different Bering Sea shrimp fishermen have been on strike to get higher costs from processors. However Bundrant and his companions held out the strike. The Seattle Instances reported that they caught hundreds of thousands of kilos of crab over the following 5 years and shortly teamed up with a Bellingham-based processor, San Juan Seafoods.

Trident’s early years coincided with the passage of the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 1976, which compelled international fleets out of fishing that stretched 200 miles offshore.

Bundrant’s aggressive nature and long-term perspective guided the event of Trident. Within the Nineteen Eighties, he took benefit of the large colleges of pollock within the Bering Sea, which weren’t a preferred fish in America on the time. US Senator Lisa Murkowski mentioned in a speech final month that Bundrant was taking dangers on land to solidify its funding in whitefish.

“He studied the Japanese strategies of catching and processing pollock and developed methods for Trident to enter this market,” mentioned Murkowski. “Then, in 1981, he dared to take a somewhat courageous step: on a really distant Aleutian island, Akutan, he constructed a facility for the onshore processing of crabs, salmon and, in fact, saithe.”

In considered one of his most notable enterprise maneuvers, Bundrant entered into agreements with most of the nation’s main quick meals chains, akin to McDonald’s, to modify their fish rolls from cod to saithe.

Bundrant was additionally concerned in fisheries laws. In 1998 he pushed for the American Fisheries Act to be handed, which divided the derby-style pollack fishery into shares that got to particular person firms.

Because the CEO of Trident, Bundrant was identified for working a good ship and emphasizing the significance of its folks.

“I am extra proud to have somebody with me 10 years and 12 years and 15 years,” he mentioned in a 1989 video shared throughout a November 3 life ministry celebration. “You turn out to be like household. This firm, irrespective of how massive it will get, will nonetheless be an in depth household. That’s the mindset that administration will keep and that’s the key to Trident’s success, it’s the folks. “

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Bundrant additionally made lasting connections in his early years in Alaska. These connections embody PenAir’s founder, Orin Seybert, who remembers assembly Bundrant whereas fishing in Chignik.

“In fact he was simply one other fisherman again then, really only a child,” mentioned Seybert. “However through the years he obtained into the crab enterprise. In fact, with my flying I’ve executed rather a lot for this shrimp trade. “

In December 1968, Seybert was flying on a postal route when he crashed on an Aleutian island, injuring his leg and slitting his head.

Bundrant was fishing close by when it was revealed that Seybert and his passengers have been caught.

“He heard about the issue and dropped his fishing rod, drove to Pauloff harbor and picked us up,” mentioned Seybert. “Myself, a physician, and two nurses – 4 of us – took us to Chilly Bay, 40 miles away, however there was no different approach to get there. So we have now had a particular relationship since that day. “

Joe Bundrant mentioned his father first got here to Bristol Bay in 1979. Since then, Chuck Bundrant has traveled to the realm each summer time apart from 2020. Trident has a plant in Naknek. That summer time, Bundrant made his final foray into the bay along with his son and grandson, who’s now fishing right here.

“I knew my father’s well being was deteriorating and I advised him, ‘I do not care if I’ve to strap you on my again and carry you round, we’re going once more,” mentioned Joe. “And he gave me each thumbs up and we went again to Alaska. So Bristol Bay was considered one of our stops. It’s one thing that’s simply a part of my soul, to have the ability to do that once more with my father was one thing very particular for me. “

Bundrant was the corporate’s CEO till his dying. Forbes Journal estimates he had a fortune of not less than $ 1.3 billion when he died.

Bundrant was identified with an atypical type of Parkinson’s, a degenerative illness, over a decade in the past. He died at house in Edmonds, Washington, aged 79.

Contact the creator at izzy@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.