Owner commits suicide at Carlton Farms
CARLTON — John Gerald Duyn, President and CEO of Carlton Farms, died at the plant Wednesday afternoon of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office.
Duyn, who maintained a primary residence in Portland and a secondary one in McMinnville, was 61. An employee found his body lying in a rear parking lot, according to Sgt. Todd Whitlow.
The plant is located at 10600 N.W. Westside Road at its intersection with Meadow Lake Road west of Carlton. A crisis team associated with the sheriff’s office has been deployed to assist company employees in coping with the emotional fallout.
The company was founded in 1956 by Henry “Hank” Duyn as Carlton Packing Company. Two years later, Hank’s brother, Carl, bought an interest and joined the company.
John, son of Carl, operated the business in partnership with Joe, son of Hank, until recent years.
In 2012, Joe filed a lawsuit against John in federal district court in Portland, alleging that John, with assistance from his wife Rita, and two friends, had for the past several years been underpaying him and systematically trying to force him out. The case was settled out of court in September 2013, after John reportedly agreed to buy Joe out.
The lawsuit claims that John first attempted to buy the company from his father and uncle in 1981, but Henry insisted on selling his shares to his own son, Joe. For some years afterward, all four men served as its board of directors, with John serving as secretary/treasurer and Joe as vice president.
In 2002, the suit alleges, John began trying to force Joe out, exiling Joe from management ranks and continuing to cut his salary, while increasing his own and awarding himself a series of bonuses and dividends. It alleges John also added his wife and two friends to the board and that they sometimes cast votes despite being ineligible to do so.
Joe asked that the court set “a reasonable salary” dating back to 2002, order dividends be distributed equally to the shareholders, and set aside all board resolutions in which members voted illegally. He asked it to appoint a custodian to take charge of the company, and that either the company or John be ordered to buy him out at a fair value.
The lawsuit was dismissed eight months ago, after the parties reached a settlement in which Joe apparently got the buyout he was seeking. According to a former longtime employee of the company, Carlton Farms has been dealing with recent financial challenges.
Carlton Farms has maintained a national reputation for quality products. In a November 2002 story, Nick Peirano of downtown McMinnville’s renowned Nick’s Italian Cafe attested to that by saying, “Product quality is perfect.” He said he had been buying pork, beef, duck and veal from the company for 20 years.
The suicide is the second tragedy to strike the family in recent weeks, as Joe’s son, Colby, died April 5 of an accidental gunshot wound suffered at a Yamhill residence just southeast of the Yamhill-Carlton High School campus. Longtime friend Chad Joseph Barton, 19, was handling a 9 mm pistol when it discharged, according to District Attorney Brad Berry, and Colby Duyn died after being transported to the Willamette Valley Medical Center.
Arrangements for John Duyn are pending at Macy & Son Funeral Directors.