Volume 10, Issue 4 - July/August 2008

AGR Reports
breaking news

Belron US to Buy Diamond Glass

Judge Christopher Sontchi of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware approved the sale of Diamond Glass and its assets to Belron US for more than $54 million during a hearing on June 20 in Wilmington, Del. In addition to the sale price, Belron US agreed to assume $9 million in liabilities. 

The only other bid on the table was from Newport-Levine Acquisitions, which is partially owned by Ken Levine, Diamond’s largest shareholder and former co-chairman of the company; according to Michael Richman of Foley and Lardner, counsel for Diamond, Newport-Levine Acquisitions’ bid fell $100,000 below that of Belron US. 

Both bids included a deposit of $1 million.

The auction, held on June 19, took an entire day.

“The debtors spent nearly 12 hours with Belron and Newport-Levine working to clarify their bids,” Richman said. “Belron has agreed to be the highest and best bid … The sale to Belron is in the best interest of the debtors.”

Bill Cogswell, president of Diamond Glass, was not in attendance at the hearing.

“Mr. Cogswell felt it was more important to be back at company headquarters to talk with employees, and we agree,” Richman said.

The closing date for the sale was scheduled for June 30 at press time, though, because of the price of the sale, the companies may have to file under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, which deals with anti-trust issues; if that happens, the close date could be extended for two weeks, but at press time company officials were uncertain whether this would be necessary.

Belron US chief executive officer Tom Feeney, along with several other Belron representatives, was in attendance at the hearing. When asked how he felt once the bidding process was over, Feeney said, “Relaxed and anxious—the real work is ahead of us now.”

Zeledyne Purchases ACH; New Owners Plan to Make Glass “Core Business” 
Zeledyne announced the purchase of the Ford Motor Co. Automotive Components Holdings (ACH) glass business and its plants in Nashville, Tenn., and Tulsa, Okla., its subsidiary Vidriocar in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, in early April. Also included in the sale are the leases for a warehouse in Lebanon, Tenn., and engineering offices in Allen Park, Mich.

The newly founded Zeledyne was created by Robert Price, a Tulsa-based private investor, who now serves as chair of the company. Michael J. McCarney, who previously was with Ford, will serve as the new chief executive officer.

“The key in our strategy right now is that glass has been kind of a secondary business for both Ford when they owned it, Visteon when they owned it, and quite frankly even ACH under the Ford umbrella,” McCarney says. “But under the Zeledyne name plate, this is our core business.”

With this new focus, the company also plans to upgrade much of the existing equipment at both its plants in Nashville, Tenn., and Tulsa, Okla.

“Two of our float lines have recently been rebuilt—our Nashville float and our T2 float in Tulsa is under construction right now, and we have plans for our third float in Tulsa. “This is going to posture us very positively in the glass business,” he says. “Essentially, we have a three-float company structure right now and all three will be brought up to the latest level and, by the end of next year, we’ll have them all completely re-built.”

No interruptions in production nor major personnel changes are expected.

“We’re actually a privately owned company taking over the existing facilities and we’re taking most of the existing employees with us,” says McCarney, who brings 30 years experience with Ford to his new position. “We expect it to be a seamless transition.”

While McCarney is unable to reveal much about the company’s strategic plans for the future, he notes that growing Zeledyne’s original-equipment (OE) customer base will be a priority.

“We’ve got a very strong record of engineering and program management performance with the automotive and OE suppliers and we’re going to be working very closely to broaden our OE customer base,” he says.

He adds, “We have an excellent team here in place. We’re looking forward to taking the business forward.”

Mitchell International and CCC Information Services to Merge
Mitchell International, the San Diego-based parent company of National Auto Glass Specifications International (NAGS), announced in early April that it had signed a definitive agreement with CCC Information Services Inc. in Chicago to combine in a merger-of-equals transaction valued at $1.4 billion. The combined enterprise will be known as CCC-Mitchell Inc.

Jesse Herrera, senior vice president of product management and marketing, says few, if any, changes are expected for the NAGS business.

“With respect to NAGS and how it might be affected, the reality is we expect that there will be relatively limited changes, if any, to the NAGS business,” Herrera says.

Herrera notes that CCC does not have any glass program in place currently—allowing this business to remain as is.

“It is not an area of overlap to our two companies. It is a unique business to Mitchell,” he says. “It is more of a complementary product line for the two companies than an area of concern.”

He adds, “Over time we expect [the merger] to be a good thing.”

AGC Restructures, Plans to Focus on Auto Glass and Solar Cell Operations
Asahi Glass Co. Ltd. (AGC) has announced that it will stop operations on three float glass production lines and two architectural coating lines from April to December of this year, and will sell the glass fabrication business. Asahi Glass will concentrate its management resources on glass for solar cells, as well as raw glass for automotive use and value-added building products, according to a press release issued by the Tokyo-based company.

Picard Takes Home First Place in GDAS Competition, Now Will Travel to AGTO

Brendan Picard of Novus Auto Glass in Regina took home first-place in the Glass Dealers Association of Saskatchewan’s second annual auto glass technician feeder competition on May 3 and will now head to the Auto Glass Technician Competition (AGTO) in Las Vegas November 7-8. Picard took home first place in last year’s GDAS competition as well and competed in last year’s AGTO. 

The competition was held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, as part of the GDAS’ annual general meeting, at the Saskatchewan Government Insurance Claim Center. 

Picard says his main training for the competition comes from reviewing the rules, which were based on those of the AGTO.

“I kind of go over the rules everyday and keep everything in mind what has to be done,” he says.But, he also notes, the main key is knowing how to do your job.

“As long as you know your job, you’ll do fine,” he says.

And, as a second-time GDAS winner and a soon-to-be second-time contestant in AGTO, what’s his advice for others?

“Try to relax and make sure you know what you’re going into,” he says.

He also mentioned that the competition continues to get stiffer—and competitions such as these are improving the quality of the work that he sees.

“It was a very close competition this year,” says Picard, who is in his eleventh year in the industry. “Everyone’s taking their jobs more seriously. That’s the whole purpose of these competitions.”

Nathaniel Vey and Jordy Racette, both of Speedy Glass, took second and third place, respectively, in the competition. There were seven contestants total.

The AGTO will be held November 7-8 at the Mandalay Convention Center in Las Vegas, as part of Auto Glass Week in Las Vegas.

$1 Million Settlement Proposed in ABRA Class Action Employment Suit

The plaintiffs in a class-action suit against ABRA Auto Body and Glass have proposed a total settlement of $1 million. The suit, filed last summer by two former ABRA employees, alleges that the company required customer service managers (CSMs) and customer service representatives (CSRs) to work overtime without pay and that it did so by misclassifying them as “managerial,” which exempted them from overtime pay. 

The U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota has given preliminary approval of the plan, and at press time was scheduled to provide final review of the settlement plan and plaintiffs’ other requests at a hearing on July 29. The court has appointed Rust Consulting as the settlement administrator.

If the current settlement stipulation is approved, to calculate the allocation of the settlement fund, plaintiffs in the class will calculate the number of months each worked at ABRA between July 1, 2004, and April 30, 2008. Then, all plaintiffs’ months worked will be added together, and the total amount of the remaining fund (minus attorneys’ fees, costs and the settlement administrator’s costs), to arrive at an average dollar amount per month. Each plaintiff would then multiply the average per-month amount by the number of months he worked at ABRA, according to court documents filed in the case.

In addition, plaintiffs in the class are requesting that the two named plaintiffs, who originally filed the suit, Thomas Hale and Justin Schreckenstein, receive payments of $7,500 each “in recognition of their time and effort in serving the class,” in addition to their regular settlement payments. The court will review this request as well on July 29.

According to court documents, the settlement fund allocation will be performed by the plaintiffs, their counsel and Rust Consulting, without any input or direction from ABRA. 

The original suit was filed by Halunen and Associates, representing Hale and Schreckenstein, on July 17, 2007, in the U.S. District Court in Minnesota.

ABRA is represented by Joseph M. Sokolowski and Lindsay J. Zamzow of Fredrikson & Byron P.A. in Minneapolis. 

Equalizer Officials Go Abroad
Equalizer Industries president Eric Asbery, international sales director Henri Goudsmit and senior technical advisor Gilbert Gutierrez recently took a two-week trip to visit distributors across Europe. Among their stops were Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and France.

“This was kind of a different approach,” says Gutierrez of the trip.

On one particular stop in Italy, they received a bit of a surprise.

“It just so happened that they had problems with the removal of a windshield from a bus,” he says. “It was really kind of cool. They had a couple cars and they wanted me to show them how to cut windows out. I told them I’d rather start with the bus. We don’t get to do many those—especially a bus manufactured in Europe.”

He continues, “They started telling me the problems they were having removing this glass. It was taking them 20 minutes just to remove the moulding—which was probably as tall as I am.”

The lengthy, 6-foot mouldings weren’t the only issue.

“The windshield was surrounded by tempered pieces. We had to be careful not to break those to get the windshield out,” he says.

The demonstration proved to be a perfect one to show the speed of Equalizer’s Express 360 and Stingray 220-volt, though.

“I prepped the area and it took me about a minute and a half to remove the moulding using our power tools,” Gutierrez says. “That in itself was like a savings. The whole job was taking them two and a half hours to remove the glass, so I already knocked off 27 minutes of their time doing the mouldings.

“We started cutting the windshield out and I had a couple techs I was training and we probably got it out in less than 28 minutes,” he says. “That was one of the nice things of going over there and introducing our latest product—it was just an eye opener.”

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