NEW YORK — A bankruptcy judge Tuesday approved the sale of most of Hostess Brands Inc.’s assets for about $800 million to three buyers, moving plants such as Biddeford a step closer to reopening.

 

Georgia-based Flowers Foods agreed to buy the bulk of Hostess’ bread brands – including Wonder, Nature’s Pride, Home Pride and Merita – for $360 million. As part of that deal, Flowers Foods will acquire 20 bakeries, including the one in Biddeford, and 38 depots and other assets.

The next step in that deal is a review by the U.S. Justice Department.

Flowers Foods did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment on its plans for the Biddeford plant.

“My gut feeling is that Flowers is not going to have any interest in hiring back any former workers. My gut feeling – for what that’s worth – is that Flowers is not interested in unions,” said Milton Jones of West Falmouth, who delivered bread and pastries as a Teamster at the Biddeford plant.

Still, Jones said he would apply for a job if Flowers Foods re-opened the Biddeford plant, which had employed 370 workers.

The bankruptcy court also approved the purchase of Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos and other snack cakes for $410 million by private equity firms Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co. The new buyers said they hoped to get Twinkies on store shelves by summer.

A third deal was also approved for the Beefsteak bread brand to be acquired by Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo for $31.9 million.

The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union had previously objected to the three deals, saying the buyers had offered no assurances that former labor contracts would be honored.

The union dropped its objection Thursday after Hostess changed the wording in its sale agreements, saying the buyers had obligations to bargain with organized labor, according to a filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. Additional details were not immediately available.

“We share the enthusiasm, energy and passions exhibited by new ownership, and believe our highly-motivated and skilled workforce will serve as indispensable partners in the seamless re-opening of factories,” the bakery union said in a written statement on Tuesday. “In this way, new ownership can proudly demonstrate their commitment to preserving middle-class jobs while delivering on their promise to consumers.”

A hearing will be held April 9 to consider the sale of Drake’s cakes to McKee Foods for $27.5 million, as well as the sale of several other brands to United States Bakery Inc. for $30.9 million.

Hostess, which shuttered its operations in November after years of financial problems and a strike by the bakery union, said that 29 of its 36 bakeries were sold as part of the deals. The new owners will decide whether to rehire any of the former 18,000 Hostess employees who lost their jobs when the company closed.

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: jhall@pressherald.com