Janesville45.6°

Freedom Plastics sale leaves questions

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Ted Sullivan
March 18, 2009
— Jeff Weissbuch sat in a Rock County courtroom Tuesday afternoon to see the sale of Freedom Plastics and find out if he would lose his job.

The pipe handler watched a dozen attorneys and company executives negotiate the sale of Freedom Plastics for more than two hours, knowing they controlled his fate and the fate of 80 other employees.


"This is no the economy to be laid off in," Weissbuch, 34, said. "It's just been very rough on people, for employees and their families."


He learned that Freedom Plastics' assets would be sold to four companies for a total of about $11.5 million.


The employees' jobs remain up in the air.


Decided in court Tuesday:


-- Westlake Chemical of Houston will pay $6.3 million for the Janesville pipe manufacturing division.


-- Harrington Corp. of Lynchburg, Va., will pay $1 million for the Janesville fabrication division.


-- Silver-Line Plastics of Asheville, N.C., will pay $3.8 million for the Florida division.


-- NACO Industries of Logan, Utah, will pay $400,000 for equipment in Idaho.


Judge Kenneth Forbeck approved the sale.


Dave Hansen of Westlake Chemical said it was too early to comment on whether the pipe manufacturing division in Janesville would remain in operation and continue employing about 55 people.


"It's very early, so it's very difficult to say precisely what's going to happen here," he said.


The company will evaluate its options in the next couple weeks and make a decision, Hansen said.


Mike Harrington of the Harrington Corp. said he intends to operate the fabrication division in Janesville and retain its 25 employees.


Freedom Plastics makes PVC pipes and fittings and supplies the wastewater, plumbing, irrigation and industrial markets. It's suffered with the depressed construction economy and growing costs of materials.


Freedom Plastics entered a court-supervised receivership sale in early February in hopes it could stay in business in Janesville.


Then the company's receiver notified the state that more than 100 Freedom employees in Wisconsin and Florida would be laid off in April unless a buyer steps forward.


Georgia Gulf Corp. and Silver-Line Plastics were the high bidders at the first auction for Freedom's assets.


But a second auction was held Monday because the first bid was "substantially less" than the $20 million Freedom owes the bank.


Bank of America, Freedom's primary creditor, agreed to the second bid.


Although Weissbuch's future at Freedom Plastics remains unknown, he hopes he can keep his job.


He wonders if his pay could change, if his benefits could change or if his seniority will change.


"It's still up in the air," Weissbuch said. "Until we talk to reps from Harrington Corp., nobody knows what's going on."



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