A rural Collinsville feed company that’s been owned by the same family for 100 years will remain in the family, thanks to a cousin who bought it at auction on Wednesday.
Craig Keller paid $261,000 for McClaskey Feed Co. and its eight acres, as well as an adjoining 12 acres of farmland. The sale had been forced due to a complicated divorce and bankruptcy filing by owners Danny and Caryl McClaskey.
“It’s good that it stayed in the family,” said Danny McClaskey, Keller’s second cousin. “I appreciate what Craig did. We’ll work with him in regards to keeping the business open and find out how he wants to handle it.”
Three people submitted sealed bids for one or both of the properties. Keller, who is president of the fourth-generation business Keller Farms, left the auction shortly after learning that his bid won and could not be reached for comment.
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Before Wednesday, Keller was renting the 12 acres of McClaskey farmland to grow corn, beans, wheat and horseradish.
McClaskey manufactures horse feed for customers throughout the region, including many at Fairmount Park racetrack. A U.S. Bankruptcy Court in East St. Louis had ordered it to close Nov. 2 but allowed it to reopen Nov. 17 on a part-time basis.
“I can’t really say everything is kosher quite yet because we don’t know for sure,” said Danny McClaskey, noting he will get more information later in the week.
Danny McClaskey has been working for the feed company more than 50 years. It was started by his grandfather, Ferdinand Keller, in 1917 and later operated by his mother, the late Hilda (Keller) McClaskey, and her husband, John.
About 50 people showed up for the auction, mostly farmers looking to get good deals on vehicles and equipment that were sold separately from the properties.
“You get more lookers than buyers,” said Jim Helfrich, owner of Millstadt Milling, which manufactures feed for horses, chickens, cows, pigs and pigeons and sells wood shavings for horse bedding.
“You get friends, neighbors and people who are just curious. This place has been here for a long time. They wonder what’s going to happen to it.”
Helfrich ended up buying a Ford van for $950.
Tim Hughes, of Lebanon, attended the auction to show his support. The racehorse owner has been buying feed from McClaskey for more than 15 years.
“I don’t want him to close,” Hughes said. “This place is very beneficial to (Fairmount Park) and all the horsemen who are here. It’s just a guess, but I would say they probably provide half the feed for the racetrack.”
The auction started at 9 a.m. Wednesday and lasted less than an hour. Auctioneer Virgil Straeter, of Auction Associates in Highland, quickly opened and compared bids for the properties before selling vehicles and equipment, including a tractor, bobcat and forklift.
I don’t want him to close. This place is very beneficial to (Fairmount Park) and all the horsemen who are here. It’s just a guess, but I would say they probably provide half the feed for the racetrack.
Tim Hughes on McClaskey Feed Co.
People bundled up in coats and hats stood in the gravel parking lot, surrounded by barns, grain storage and a metal building that serves as an office. Cars and trucks passed in the distance on Interstate 55/70.
“It went good,” Straeter said. “I think the prices were what I expected or exceeded my expectations.”
Also in attendance was court-appointed trustee Don Sampson, whose job is to liquidate assets and pay off creditors in the McClaskey bankruptcy case.
Sampson thought the auction had a “decent turnout,” considering the small amount of equipment and the limited number of people looking to buy feed companies or farmland.
“That was one of the reasons we decided to go with an auction,” he said. “You get competitive bidding, so you can flush out the best price. And (buyers) have to make a quick decision. If you list a property, you may have to sit on it for months.”