Barber Family Buys Back Retail Operations, Continues to Pursue Manufacturing Business
December 7, 2010
John Barber has had one bit of good news since his company, Guelph, Ontario-based Barber Glass Industries, was placed into receivership in November. He told USGNN.com™ in an interview today that a deal to buy back Barber Glass Retail from receiver Grant Thornton Ltd. was completed successfully last week.
Barber Glass Industries’ manufacturing operations in Guelph and Collingwood, Ontario, are still in receivership, but Barber says he is continuing efforts to buy back those manufacturing operations as well. The assets of those facilities are currently for sale by the receiver, with offers due on December 22, 2010. As of press time, Grant Thornton had not responded to questions about the sale.
Regarding the retail operation, Barber says, “The retail operation was in business since 1883. That business was caught up in the crossfire. They never had any issues. The issues were with our friends at the Bank of Montreal.”
Barber notes that the retail operation accounts for 8 percent of the company’s annual sales.
Now Barber’s focus is solely on buying back the manufacturing operations. He says he is working with government and banking officials, and notes that he also has the support of many industry suppliers in these efforts.
“It’s pretty odd the overwhelming support we have had from suppliers,” Barber says. “Some said they will risk credit for a new operation, provided I am in some form of management.”
Barber continues to stay in contact with 15 to 20 suppliers and keep them up to speed on the situation. However, “a few did have a bad reaction,” Barber says. “For 31 years I’ve put every dollar I made back into the company, which is why I have such a vast amount of owner’s equity. Some [suppliers] were your best buddies and in 24 hours they became your worst enemies.”
Barber also offered USGNN.com™ a few details concerning the events leading up to Grant Thornton placing the company into receivership.
“I thought we had a deal at the bank only to find out at last hour that it didn’t happen,” says Barber, who is the company’s largest single stakeholder.
“We had the largest backlog and the largest receivable in the history of company at the time of the receivership so it’s all hard for us to understand,” he says.
But Barber adds that he can’t look back and can only focus on the future and getting Barber back up and running. “All I can do is look forward. If you look back you kind of cry about the situation … You go from having a lot of equity to no equity.”
Since the company was placed in receivership all manufacturing employees were let go, however some were rehired by the receiver and with the help of Barber, have been keeping the plant running. Barber says the original employees are anxious to get back to work and it is his goal to make sure this happens, but he’s not sure what the end result will be.
“It’s all in the hands of who puts in the most lucrative offer,” he says. “With the retail arm it was all about value for the courts. [For manufacturing], this is a little different. It comes down to who has a check large enough to buy what’s sitting there - and time to do the due diligence. I’m a secured creditor like the bank, but do I have the same clout as our financial lender?”
If Barber is successful it seems he has the support of many in the industry behind him.
“A large number of our larger customers have suggested they will support us,” says Barber.