Shareholders vote in favor of Cabela’s sale to Bass Pro, inching company closer to deal

Shareholders vote in favor of Cabela’s sale to Bass Pro, inching company closer to deal
People enter the lobby at Cabela's headquarters in Sidney before Tuesday's shareholder's meeting. (World-Herald News Service)

SIDNEY, Neb. — Cabela’s shareholders have voted to sell the homegrown Nebraska business to Bass Pro Shops, the company announced Tuesday at a special meeting at its headquarters.

The vote brings the outdoors retailer one step closer to consummating its deal with Bass Pro, in which Cabela’s stockholders will receive $61.50 per share.

Roughly 35 people attended the open-and-shut meeting, which lasted 20 minutes. No one asked questions during the question-and-answer session.

About 54 million votes, or 78 percent, were cast in favor of the sale. Most of the remaining shares were not voted, but 155,000 were cast against.

Cabela’s announced last October that its top competitor, Bass Pro, would buy it and consolidate the companies in Bass Pro’s home of Springfield, Missouri.

That leaves Sidney, an isolated town of 6,800 located about six hours west of Omaha, in a possible lurch. It’s still unclear how many of Cabela’s jobs will remain once Bass Pro looks to cut jobs. Cabela’s had employed around 2,000 before several rounds of cost-cutting efforts.

That’s one reason Don Benisek of Sidney said he’s “flat against” the sale, and he voted his shares as such.

He especially protested bonuses for Cabela’s executives, which he called “not right.”

Benisek said he’s concerned for the town he’s called home since 1965, although he plans to stay.

“I just hope Sidney doesn’t go bankrupt,” Benisek said.

He’s been a Cabela’s shareholder since the company went public in 2004.

Elaine Wendler of Lakewood, Colorado, said she also voted her 100 shares of Cabela’s stock against the sale.

“It does sound like they’re going to keep the Cabela name, but for how long?” Wendler said. “It’ll leave a lot of empty buildings.”

Bass Pro said in a statement that the shareholder approval is “an important milestone that brings us one step closer to finalizing this exciting opportunity.”

Bass Pro has said it plans to maintain important bases of operation in Sidney. But in a meeting with Cabela’s employees last year, Bass Pro Chief Executive Johnny Morris said there would be cuts.

“Strategic” buyers like Bass Pro are typically able to pay a higher price to acquire competitors because the company can save money once the deal has closed by eliminating dual functions, such as accounting or human resources departments.

The deal is still awaiting the go-ahead from the Federal Reserve, which has jurisdiction over the sale of Cabela’s credit card operation, World’s Foremost Bank. The bank must be sold before Bass Pro can close on the retail arm of Cabela’s.

Under the deal announced in October, the bank was to be sold to Capital One, and shareholders were to receive $65.50 per share.

But due to an unrelated regulatory issue with Capital One, the bank will instead be sold to Synovus Financial Corp., a Georgia bank that will then offload the credit card receivables to Capital One for a fee. Analysts have called it a clever regulatory workaround.

The merger deadline, when all parties can walk away, is Oct. 3. Cabela’s said it expects the sale to close in the third quarter.

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