Chuck Bundrant dies: “He would do million-dollar handshake deals, and he would stick to it.”

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The billionaire founder and majority owner of Trident Seafoods, Chuck Bundrant, has died aged 79.

Bundrant, who started his career as a deck hand on a crabber and went on to cofound Seattle-based Trident Seafoods, died on Sunday.

Trident Seafoods is one of the largest processors of seafood in the US. Estimates put the company’s annual sales at $2.6 billion and calculate its value at $3.8 billion.

According to an obituary in The Seattle Times, Bundrant was a fierce competitor who played a pivotal role in ushering in a new era in harvests off Alaska as foreign fleets were pushed out of the 200-mile zone and Americans rushed in to catch pollock, crab, black cod and other seafood.

As US fleets gained control, Bundrant fought to ensure that Trident’s network of shoreside processing plants and seagoing vessels would prosper.

“Friends and people mattered, and his word and his honor,” said Brent Paine, executive director of the United Catcher Boats, a group of trawl vessels whose owners do business with Trident. “He would do million-dollar handshake deals, and he would stick to it.”

In 1972, Bundrant co-founded Trident, a privately held company.

A key component of Bundrant’s success was his championing of pollock in the 1980s, when he convinced Americans to consume what was then considered a ‘trash fish’. Trident continues to ship pollock alongside cod and salmon to several chains across the US, including Costco and Safeway.

Trident has a fleet of more than 40 company-owned vessels, including catcher processors, trawlers, crab boats, tenders and freighters. The company also has 11 Alaska seafood processing plants, three in Washington, one in Minnesota and one in Georgia. Trident employs about 9,000 people at the peak of summer harvests.

Trident is led by Bundrant’s son, Joe Bundrant, who became chief executive officer in 2013, when Chuck Bundrant became board chair.