The proprietor of United Furniture Industries, which abruptly fired all of its 2,700 staff members through a one night time last thirty day period, has been quietly assisting a wind-down of the business enterprise — with some insiders professing he’s seeking to “save face” pursuing the massacre, The Post has figured out.
David Belford — a wealthy Ohio businessman who experienced long gone silent for quite a few weeks subsequent the Nov. 21 layoffs at furnishings factories in Mississippi, North Carolina and California — resurfaced previously this thirty day period, telling a area business publication he is “devastated by the switch of events” and contacting the circumstance “agonizing.”
But Belford also insisted he’s not to blame, in accordance to the Dec. 12 interview with Columbus Business Very first. He termed himself a “passive investor” in the Okolona, Overlook.-centered business enterprise, in accordance to the report, introducing that “my insight into the company’s funds was restricted.”
“Only quite not too long ago did I study just how dire the scenario had come to be, how restricted the company’s possibilities ended up,” he claimed. “Unfortunately, the fact of UFI’s situation was brought to the board’s attention considerably far too late.”
Yet, sources say Belford has quietly taken an energetic position in the liquidation, rehiring a handful of workforce together with the previous economic controller, Kim Harper. A previous human methods executive, Helen Benefield, has been tapped to assist personnel get well belongings from shuttered services and to reassure them they will get W2 statements, sources said.
“He rehired Harper and Benefield and some others to help save experience because he was acquiring hammered,” explained Philip Hearn, an legal professional who is suing UFI on behalf of workforce. “Who appears to be like like a bigger Scrooge than this dude?”
Belford did not return calls for remark.
UFI’s creditors like Wells Fargo are spearheading the bulk of the shutdown, returning vehicles and products to distributors and having to pay for security to shield these belongings, resources claimed. A spokesperson for Wells Fargo declined to comment. UFI suppliers, in the meantime, say they were blindsided by the sudden shutdown and stumped by Belford’s explanation that he was out of the loop.
“I just can’t visualize acquiring a business as big as UFI and not know what’s heading on,” stated Keith Sechrest, co-operator of Seagrove Lumber LLC, which was pressured to lay off its 45 workers soon after the extensive the vast majority of its business enterprise went away when UFI shuttered.
UFI experienced fallen powering on its payments to North Carolina-primarily based Seagrove this year, but “there was no warning” that it would simply just fold, Sechrest explained. His brother also owns a lumber enterprise that was pressured to shut down and lay off 30 personnel.
UFI owes Seagrove $1.2 million in unpaid invoices above the earlier 90 times, Sechrest claims, and owes his brother’s business fifty percent a million bucks. A tiny blade-sharpening business enterprise that labored with the two lumber providers is also on the verge of closing, having a different 4 jobs with it, he explained.
It’s not very clear whether UFI will file for personal bankruptcy. Sources stated UFI’s board — whose chairman is however Belford, in accordance to the Ohio Company Journal — has lately retained distressed-personal debt legal professional Mark Melickian, a Chicago-primarily based lover at Sugar Felsenthal Grais & Helsinger, who did not reply to requests for comment. UFI also has hired employment litigation lawyer Michael Kelly, a partner at Squire Patton Boggs in San Francisco, who declined to comment.
“The owner could consider it is as well costly to file for bankruptcy security and the financial institution would adore to promote it as a turnkey procedure,” said Kenneth Rosen, a distressed-personal debt legal professional at Lowenstein Sandler who is not included in the situation.
Suppliers and vendors had been instructed not long ago that organization was improving upon and that there was no inkling the organization was in the “dire” shape Belford statements. Even though need for home furnishings has slowed as curiosity rates and inflation rose, UFI has typically done nicely through recessions, since its merchandise are value-oriented, a former government explained to The Put up.
“There is no rationale this company should really be in the placement it is in,” wrote UFI’s longtime president, Larry George, in a Fb put up on Nov. 29. George still left the company nearly two yrs ago and claimed he would have “stayed on” had he recognized it would near, incorporating that he “would have managed this in a fully unique fashion.”
George declined to comment for this story.
“How could someone who owns a majority of the business not know the financial scenario,” a former supervisor at the North Carolina operations advised The Submit, adding that as just lately as Oct, a senior govt frequented the vegetation she managed and confident her that “things were transferring in the suitable path.”
Some personnel have signed on to lawsuits alleging that UFI violated labor legal guidelines by firing them with out 60 days’ discover. UFI sent out texts and e-mail to staff telling them not to appear to perform on Nov. 21 due to the fact their work opportunities and overall health insurance experienced been removed, effective instantly.
A new Alert notice was sent to staff two weeks in the past in which UFI disclosed for the initially time that it was unable “to get enough funding to preserve operations” and that the corporation was “trying pretty hard” to get this financing.
“It’s unfortunate that he is whole of it and usually takes no blame for any of this,” a former UFI worker said of Belford on a Facebook web page for laid-off workers who are exchanging information about wellbeing insurance policies, utility aid applications and other providers.
“That’s bull-s–t,” wrote one more ex-personnel, responding to Belford’s statements that he was blindsided by a downturn in the company. “David came down inside of the final 6 months. So he could of gave us extra warning. In its place [the] CEO kept telling us small business was strengthening.”