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Champion files for bankruptcy

WORTHINGTON -- Champion Enterprises Inc., which owns Worthington-based Highland Manufacturing Co. LLC, has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy and begun a debt restructuring process that should allow daily operations to continue as usual.

"The company has worked very hard to formulate the special relief it would need so that its transition into Chapter 11 would have no impact on our customers," Champion Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer William C. Griffiths said in a news release. "We are very pleased that we received approval to continue our customer programs. ..."

Anita-Marie Laurie, a spokeswoman for Champion, said the restructuring will not affect Highland Manufacturing any differently than Champion's other operations.

"There is almost nothing that is uniquely impacted; the goal is to keep the company as a whole," she said.

As such, she said no layoffs have been announced as a result of the restructuring, and employees at Highland should continue to work and be paid as usual.

Troy, Mich.-based Champion has received interim court approval of its $40 million debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing, giving the company access to as much as $31 million to continue operations, pay employee wages and benefits and purchase goods and services during the restructuring period. The final hearing on the DIP financing has been set for Dec. 10.

Laurie said the process -- including a court-supervised auction, in which the company will be sold to the highest bidder -- should be completed by late April.

Some local employees have reported a decrease in hours worked, which Laurie said is not uncommon for the decline in business typical of winter. After checking Highland's employment records, she said there was no correlation between the restructuring and the decrease in hours worked.

"It's just been the normal, seasonal slow-down; nothing concerning," she said. "We all remain hopeful that the economy and the housing market improves ... and we will be well-poised to take advantage of those opportunities; and that would mean more hours for our employees, but that's all determined by market conditions."

Champion's assets are listed as $576.5 million in a document from the United States Bankruptcy Court; while total debts are around $521.3 million. The assets figure includes intangible assets, which is why the company's assets seem higher than its debt.

Several employees at Highland Manufacturing told the Daily Globe they were not authorized to speak to the media about the restructuring.