'No winners' in closing of South Carolina-based American LaFrance, owner says
In only its second public statement since shutting down American LaFrance, the firm that owns the failed Moncks Corner firetruck-maker said the abrupt closing last month was both unexpected and unavoidable.
"There are no winners in this situation," New York-based Patriarch Partners LLC said in prepared remarks Wednesday. "All involved parties are deeply saddened and disappointed that they were ultimately unable to save this iconic American company."
The investment firm and several of its affiliated lenders bought American LaFrance nine years ago. At the time, the business was "on the verge of liquidation," according to the statement
"Over the ensuing years, the ... lenders worked in good faith to support American LaFrance so that the company could continue operating and supporting thousands of local jobs," the statement said. "The ... lenders continued to invest in American LaFrance in the expectation of a turnaround. Unfortunately, despite these efforts, American LaFrance was forced to close when the company's financial situation suddenly and unexpectedly deteriorated to the point where it was clear the company could not be saved."
American LaFrance's failure resulted in the permanent closing of the 101-worker Moncks Corner headquarters and its other factories in Pennsylvania and California on Jan. 17.
The company and its predecessors had been building fire engines and firefighting equipment for about 180 years.
Wednesday's statement didn't address the roughly $650,000 American LaFrance owes Berkeley County in tax-related fees.
Officials secured the manufacturer's equipment in Moncks Corner on Friday, said Dan Davis, county supervisor. The property is being consolidated into one building from two.
"We're exploring how we're going to dispose of it," Davis said Wednesday. "It's going to be a pretty big task, so we don't have a plan of action on that yet."
The equipment most likely will be sold at auction if the fees aren't paid, he said.
The county has been in contact with lawyers representing Patriarch Partners, Davis added. The investment firm filed legal claims on American LaFrance's equipment in January.
"They're trying to protect their interests, which may be loaned money, I'm not really sure," Davis said.
The lawyers have suggested that Patriarch Partners wants to pay the county so it can take possession of the equipment, he added.
"I think there's a mutual interest in that," Davis said.
Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.