Glasstech files for bankruptcy

Glasstech, Inc., the Perrysburg Township firm that has claimed to be the world's leading maker of equipment for tempering and bending glass for the automotive industry, filed for bankruptcy for the second time in 10 years.

Although company officials and its public-relations agency refused to comment on the filing or the business, a slowdown in the North American auto industry and the national recession probably were causes.Evidence of problems surfaced in October, when the company said it was laying off 28 employees and using contractors for some assembly work.

The business, founded in 1971 by well-known local entrepreneurs and philanthropists Harold McMaster, Norman Nitschke, and Frank Larimer, expects to keep operating and to emerge from bankruptcy.

Glasstech and its parent company, Glasstech Holding Co., filed for Chapter 11 financial reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., where the Ampoint Industrial Park firm is incorporated.

The companies listed less than $100 million each in assets and debts.

In a statement, Mark Christman, president and chief executive, said: "The note holders know the company is sound and that it is a good business with good management. Glasstech expects to promptly emerge from these proceedings a much stronger company financially."

The company's statement said negotiations are ongoing with its creditors, who could end up with ownership interest in the firm to help pay off what is owed.

The firm designs and manufactures glass bending and tempering equipment that it sells to glass processors who supply the automotive and building supplies industries. Pilkington North America is one of its local customers.

Among the largest unsecured creditors listed in court papers were holders of $70 million in 12.75 percent bonds due in 2004.

The company has about 115 employees, fewer than half the number in the mid-1990s.

However, the firm sounded confident a few years ago after a forced bankruptcy. Glasstech was in Chapter 11 in Delaware in 1993, filing just 70 minutes before creditors filed to force it into bankruptcy. The firm emerged the next year after eliminating $265 million in debt. Much of that debt stemmed from a 1989 leveraged buyout.

When it filed, the company cited liabilities of nearly $270 million and assets of $84 million. Until Owens Corning filed for Chapter 11 in late 2000, the Glasstech bankruptcy was the area's biggest in at least two decades.

Glasstech was controlled by a creditors' group after the bankruptcy but was sold in 1997 to senior executives and the corporate acquisition arm of KeyBank for an undisclosed price. The deal gave Cleveland-based Key Equity Capital controlling interest in what was then the 26-year-old firm, Mr. Christman said at the time.

The private company has recently disclosed no details of its finances, but it apparently peaked in the late 1980s with $90 million in sales. In 1995, it had revenues of $60 million and employed 240 at its local plant and at a small sales and engineering support office in Great Britain.

Glasstech has had many ownership changes. Mr. McMaster, Mr. Nitschke, and Mr. Larimer have retired from daily operations. Mr. McMaster is perhaps best known for his start-up of a solar panel firm now located in Perrysburg, Mr. Nitschke was a glass engineer, and Mr. Larimer had been associated with Permaglass, Inc., in Woodville.

All three are recognized with buildings at the University of Toledo, to which they have given millions of dollars.

600450 Glasstech files for bankruptcy

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