Future of Chiquita in uptown uncertain after surprise bid

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Chiquita came to Charlotte with much fanfare in 2011.  Now its future here is uncertain. 
 
The surprise bid this week by two South American companies that want to buy Chiquita are raising questions about how big a presence the company will maintain in uptown. 
 
The agribusiness Cutrale and a finance company, the Safra Group, are offering shareholders a 30 percent premium to buy Chiquita.  So far, though, no one is saying whether the new owners would keep Chiquita's global headquarters in Charlotte. 
 
That was a key provision in the $22 million incentive package agreed to by Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and the state of North Carolina.  That agreement requires Chiquita to keep its headquarters in town for at least 10 years and also to maintain nearly 400 high-paying jobs.
 
The city has already raised questions about the incentives it's paid out, because a competing takeover bid by the Irish company Fyffes would move Chiquita's global headquarters to Dublin.
 
Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble says the city is in negotiations to see whether any of the $1 million paid out by the city and county needs to be repaid. 
 
"There is a contractual agreement between the city, county and Chiquita on what has to happen for those incentives to remain in full force and effect," Kimble said. 
 
City Councilman David Howard said the competing bids for ownership of Chiquita leave the city in an uncertain position. 
 
“As soon as the dust settles and they can tell us who we're working with, we'll sit and talk to them,” Howard said.
 
Howard said he's hopeful that whoever ends up managing Chiquita will live up to the promises made in 2011.
 
“We had a deal with them and we want them to make good on that one way or the other,” he said.