Glenshaw Glass workers worry

Worried employees of Glenshaw Glass Co. will be hearing from the Shaler bottling plant's new operators for the first time Wednesday after an Allegheny County judge approved the placement of the company into receivership.

Meridian Group, a Pittsburgh-based turnaround management firm, was tapped by Glenshaw's largest creditor, PNC Bank, to operate the plant that has been owned for the past 16 years by O'Hara businessman John Ghaznavi. Meridian is to update employees Wednesday on how the plant will function until new investors can be found.

Glenshaw's 300-plus employees are hoping to avoid the fate of the Anchor Glass Container Corp. plant in Connellsville, Fayette County, another former Ghaznavi-controlled entity, which closed suddenly Thursday.

Ghaznavi had been attempting to find a partner to operate Glenshaw Glass in recent months, and had been negotiating with Florida-based leveraged buyout firm Sun Capital Partners Inc. before the Sept. 17 flooding caused by remnants of Hurricane Ivan shut it down for two weeks and knocked out two of its four furnaces.

Sun subsequently pulled out of discussions, which included calls for employee wage and benefit concessions. After Sun's withdrawal, Ghaznavi pressed forward with the concession demands on his own and terminated the employees' pension plan, but the union balked at further givebacks.

Only last year, the union agreed to concessions to keep the plant operating in return for Ghaznavi's promise to invest in the plant's aging equipment. Union leaders say Ghaznavi never offered proof he lived up to his end of the bargain.

Ghaznavi could not be reached for comment Monday.

Ghaznavi's removal last Friday brings his odyssey as one of the top players in the North American glass bottle business full circle -- ending in the very place he began, as the operator of a struggling glass plant along Route 8 where several generations of some area families have toiled alongside each other during its 108-year existence.

Ghaznavi, an Iranian immigrant who found early success in various businesses, including trucking and real estate, acquired Glenshaw Glass in 1988 for $13 million, two years after being asked to join its board of directors.

Five years later his investment company, G&G Investments, acquired a majority interest in Canada's largest glass bottling company, Consumers Packaging Inc.

With Ghaznavi at the helm, Consumers Packaging in 1997 acquired Tampa, Fla.-based Anchor Glass for $250 million, including the Connellsville plant.

Things began unraveling early in 2001 when Consumers stopped making payments on its bonds used to acquire Anchor and fell into the Canadian equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Ghaznavi was ousted as the company's chief executive.

When Toledo, Ohio-based glass giant Owens-Illinois Inc. acquired Consumer Packaging's Canadian plants, Ghaznavi struck a deal to retain a majority stake in Anchor Glass, but he was subsequently pushed out as Anchor emerged from Chapter 11 protection in August 2002. This left him with only his original Glenshaw Glass investment.

In a statement following the voting down of more concessions last month, Lou Brudnock, president of Local 134 of the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers International Union, said Ghaznavi had lost the trust of his workers.

"Ghaznavi took over this plant in 1988 and made a lot of money," he said. "But he took a lot of the money he made here and invested in buying other glass plants, building a huge empire which collapsed in the end, leaving him with the Glenshaw plant and a lot of debt. ... He has cried wolf so many times in the past that my members don't believe him anymore."

600450 Glenshaw Glass workers worry

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