Monday, December 12, 2005

Happy ending

So what happened to the company that was liquidated? It’s gone. All the headquarters jobs in Pittsburgh just went away. Three of the four plants were sold to three separated entities. And the one that WASN’T sold, because no buyer could be found, has since been razed to the ground. The cleaned-up real estate is still for sale.

A side note: What’s perverse about that one plant being unsold is that the local union there was the most cooperative during all the cutbacks and layoffs that happened before liquidation. Those employees were trying desperately to save their jobs and livelihood, but failed. The other unions fought tooth and nail against every measure which might have saved the company. Although many of their jobs went away also since the new owners pared back the facilities, at least some of those workers are still employed. Irony. How ironic.

Oh, and this is in response to several of the comments I received on this story. Karyn said, “That's what happens when you put people in charge of money that isn't theirs.” My response: Yeah. Remind you of Congress? Candace basically said that, but wondered if the whole country ran that way. My response: Exactly. If that one group of banks handles big loans that way, I’m sure others do as well. Think how many hundreds of millions are just flushed away each year from their shareholders’ equity! And the shareholders never know the details! Finally, Michelle said, “In all probability the attorney was getting a percentage of the sale as his fee and was being greedy.” My response: Actually I think he was getting paid by the hour, so yes, it was greed. But the longer he prolonged the negotiations and auction and sale process, the more money he made. He had NO motive to save the bank shareholders any money. None.

So where’s the happy ending? Well, MY plant came out bar far the best.

Yes, we laid off all but 16 people, and put those 16 on reduced hours and pay. (I was one of the lucky 16, only because my boss tried to keep a core group together so that when/if a buyer was found for this place we could get it up and running again quickly.) (See, it PAYS to kiss up to the boss! Just kidding Greg! Really!)

We 16 lucky ones came to work for 32 hours a week (four 8-hour days). There was enough actual work to keep us each busy, oh, maybe 1-2 hours for each of those days. What did we do the rest of the time? Well it varied, but I used the time to write my novel. That schedule lasted for 7 ½ months!

At the time of the final auction there were two bidders. One was a company from India, and the other was Unocal, who was going to be prevented from buying us if there were any other qualified buyers. Why? Anti-trust reasons. Unocal and Conoco and my plant were the only 3 companies in the USA who made the product this plant makes. If either of those two bought us, there would be only two players, not three.

BUT, if there were no other buyers, then there would only be two competitors anyway, and then the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) would have no concerns.

So the bankruptcy judge scrutinized the Indian firm to see if they were a qualified buyer or not. He soon determined that though they claimed they would operate the plant in this country, this firm had a practice of buying up very cheap plants in the US, dismantling them and shipping the equipment to India where they reassembled them and ran them.

The judge declared them NOT a qualified buyer, and the DOJ allowed Unocal to buy the plant. Purchase price? $4.5 million. The cost to build this plant in 1982? $230 million. Not a bad bargain.

Why is that a happy ending? Unocal immediately told us 16 folks we were hired, and to rehire enough of the former employees to staff the plant at a minimal operating level until they determined the market demand for our product. We hired back 70 people, and today we’re up to 95.

Meanwhile, Unocal had LOTS of resources (read: deep pockets!) and put things back into very good shape. That purchase took place on July 13, 2003. Counting the $4.5 million plus all the other money spent to get the plant going and in good shape, Unocal spent about $20 million.

Then in April of 2005, they sold us to a private buyer for $50 million.

Not a bad return, huh? Plus, we had jobs with good pay and benefits. The plant stayed in the US and is now contributing to our balance of trade (since we export a lot of what we make). And we’re currently making a profit for our new owner.

If we make enough profit, he may sell us to someone for $100 million.

And the beat goes on.

(Yes, in case you’re wondering, I have a GREAT book outline in all of this, with compelling heroes, heroines, and villains!)


Candace said...

This should be required reading in the colleges and universities.

Duke_of_Earle said...

Thanks, Candace. You, as a former legal secretary, probably have a better feel than many for how things like this can go awry in the legal arena. People just have no idea what goes on behind the scenes, sometimes. And unless you are one of the people losing money, most don't care. It's boring.