'I think both groups of assets are ending up in very professional and competent hands,' FPI director John Risley said Monday. ((CBC) )

Investorsin Fishery Products Internationalon Monday unanimously approved the sale of the company's assets to High Liner Foods Inc. and Ocean Choice International.

The salewas approved at an FPI shareholder meeting in St. John's that lasted just half an hour, bringing an end to months of negotiations and years of turmoil at what once was Newfoundland and Labrador's flagship seafood company.

John Risley, a principal FPI director who frequently clashed with union officials and the Newfoundland and Labrador government, chose his words carefully on Monday after the meeting.

"I prefer not to look backward. I prefer to look forward. This is moving on," said Risley, the Nova Scotia processor who founded Clearwater Fine Foods.

"I think both groups of assets are ending up in very professional and competent hands."

Risley has been a figure of controversy, if not a lightning rod for it, in the Newfoundland and Labrador seafood industry. Risley led a hostile takeover in 2001, but the new management was unable to transform the company as promised.

Instead, FPI said it could not operate profitably under existing conditions, and sought wage concessions from the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, and greater liberty from the provincial government, which had a say in the former Crown coporation's affairs.

Early this year, the Risley-led management team threw their hands in the air, and invited bids from competitors for its assets.

The sale came after months of wrangling, often in public, over the assets of FPI, which is no longer the seafood force it once was, but is still regarded as a key employer in Newfoundland and Labrador.

FPI was founded as a provincial Crown corporation in 1984, and was privatized in 1987. Even so,provincial legislationset limits on the company's activities and how much any shareholder could own.

It took months of back-and-forth talks to produce deals that the Newfoundland and Labrador government could accept.

In August, FPI unveiled a deal that will see Ocean Choicepay $158 million for six Newfoundland processing plants, in Marystown, Port au Choix, Port Union, Bonavista, Triton and South Dildo. The company also purchased a Nova Scotia scallop business and an offshore shrimp and turbot vessel.

High Liner agreed to pay FPI $143 million for its North American marketing division and plants in Burin, N.L., and Massachusetts.

As for his often rocky relations with provincial government officials, Risley did not engage during an interview with CBC News. "We're not going to do anything to rain on that parade at all," he said, referring to Premier Danny Williams's landslide victory earlier this month.

He added, though, that the experience of running FPI will not be something he will soon forget. "It generated lots of memories," he said.

The entire sale is expected to be completed by the end of the month.

As part of its plan to get out of the fishery business, FPI intends to shift into an investment and holding company.

The proceeds from the sales will be used to pay off debt, and FPI intends toput the remaining money into undetermined investments.

Risley said the terms of the sale agreement preclude him from investing in the Newfoundland and Labrador fishing industry.