United Furniture owner quietly surfaces after firing 2,700 overnight

The proprietor of United Furniture Industries, which abruptly fired all of its 2,700 staff all through a solitary evening last month, has been quietly aiding a wind-down of the company — with some insiders saying he’s attempting to “save face” next the massacre, The Post has learned.

David Belford — a wealthy Ohio businessman who experienced gone silent for numerous months adhering to the Nov. 21 layoffs at furniture factories in Mississippi, North Carolina and California — resurfaced earlier this thirty day period, telling a area organization publication he is “devastated by the switch of events” and calling the predicament “agonizing.”

But Belford also insisted he’s not to blame, in accordance to the Dec. 12 interview with Columbus Small business Very first. He referred to as himself a “passive investor” in the Okolona, Skip.-based mostly small business, in accordance to the report, introducing that “my perception into the company’s funds was constrained.” 

“Only incredibly a short while ago did I discover just how dire the scenario had become, how limited the company’s alternatives have been,” he mentioned. “Unfortunately, the reality of UFI’s conditions was brought to the board’s focus far much too late.” 

David Belford
David Belford resurfaced earlier this thirty day period telling a local organization publication he is “devastated by the flip of gatherings.”
Flying Horse Farm

Nevertheless, sources say Belford has quietly taken an active function in the liquidation, rehiring a handful of personnel including the previous fiscal controller, Kim Harper. A former human assets govt, Helen Benefield, has been tapped to assistance employees recuperate possessions from shuttered services and to reassure them they will receive W2 statements, sources stated.

“He rehired Harper and Benefield and others to save face due to the fact he was getting hammered,” stated Philip Hearn, an lawyer who is suing UFI on behalf of staff members. “Who seems to be like a larger Scrooge than this guy?”

Belford did not return phone calls for remark.

UFI’s lenders such as Wells Fargo are spearheading the bulk of the shutdown, returning vehicles and gear to sellers and paying out for safety to defend these assets, sources said. A spokesperson for Wells Fargo declined to comment. UFI suppliers, meanwhile, say they had been blindsided by the sudden shutdown and stumped by Belford’s clarification that he was out of the loop.

Workers at United Furniture Industries
All of United Furniture’s 2,700 staff ended up fired through a single evening past month.
United Furniture Industries
Inside a United Furniture Industries warehouse
Sources say Belford has quietly taken an lively function in the liquidation.
United Household furniture Industries

“I cannot picture owning a corporation as big as UFI and not know what is likely on,” said Keith Sechrest, co-proprietor of Seagrove Lumber LLC, which was forced to lay off its 45 workers just after the huge vast majority of its business went away when UFI shuttered.

UFI had fallen at the rear of on its payments to North Carolina-primarily based Seagrove this calendar year, but “there was no warning” that it would just fold, Sechrest stated. His brother also owns a lumber business that was pressured to shut down and lay off 30 personnel.

UFI owes Seagrove $1.2 million in unpaid invoices over the earlier 90 times, Sechrest promises, and owes his brother’s company half a million bucks. A compact blade-sharpening organization that labored with each lumber businesses is also on the verge of closing, having a different 4 work opportunities with it, he reported.

It’s not distinct regardless of whether UFI will file for bankruptcy. Sources stated UFI’s board — whose chairman is nevertheless Belford, in accordance to the Ohio Enterprise Journal — has not long ago retained distressed-debt legal professional Mark Melickian, a Chicago-primarily based spouse at Sugar Felsenthal Grais & Helsinger, who did not react to requests for remark. UFI also has hired employment litigation lawyer Michael Kelly, a lover at Squire Patton Boggs in San Francisco, who declined to remark.

“The operator may think it is far too high priced to file for individual bankruptcy safety and the financial institution would adore to provide it as a turnkey procedure,” said Kenneth Rosen, a distressed-financial debt legal professional at Lowenstein Sandler who is not included in the situation.

Suppliers and vendors experienced been advised not too long ago that small business was enhancing and that there was no inkling the enterprise was in the “dire” shape Belford claims. Though need for home furniture has slowed as fascination charges and inflation rose, UFI has historically performed nicely in the course of recessions, because its goods are value-oriented, a previous government told The Publish.

Lane Furniture store in Verona, Miss. Lane is a unit of UFI.
Lane Home furnishings retail store in Verona, Overlook. Lane is a unit of UFI.
Kenzie Neal

“There is no explanation this business really should be in the placement it is in,” wrote UFI’s longtime president, Larry George, in a Fb post on Nov. 29. George still left the enterprise just about two many years back and explained he would have “stayed on” experienced he recognized it would close, introducing that he “would have taken care of this in a fully unique fashion.”

George declined to comment for this tale.

“How could anyone who owns a bulk of the enterprise not know the financial condition,” a previous manager at the North Carolina operations explained to The Put up, including that as not too long ago as Oct, a senior govt frequented the crops she managed and certain her that “things ended up moving in the correct path.”

United Furniture Industries
UFI’s lenders which includes Wells Fargo are spearheading the bulk of the shutdown, returning vehicles and devices to distributors and shelling out for stability to safeguard these belongings, sources stated.
United Home furniture Industries

Some employees have signed on to lawsuits alleging that UFI violated labor legal guidelines by firing them devoid of 60 days’ discover. UFI despatched out texts and e-mail to employees telling them not to occur to work on Nov. 21 since their work and well being insurance policies had been removed, effective right away.

A new Warn recognize was despatched to employees two months back in which UFI disclosed for the very first time that it was not able “to get ample financing to keep operations” and that the company was “trying extremely hard” to get this financing.

“It’s unfortunate that he is full of it and requires no blame for any of this,” a former UFI employee claimed of Belford on a Facebook page for laid-off workers who are exchanging details about wellness insurance policy, utility assistance systems and other products and services.

“That’s bull-s–t,” wrote yet another ex-employee, responding to Belford’s claims that he was blindsided by a downturn in the enterprise. “David came down in the very last 6 months. So he could of gave us far more warning. As a substitute [the] CEO saved telling us business enterprise was improving upon.”

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