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Mark IV gets court OK to emerge from bankruptcy Secured lenders to have 88% ownership stake

Mark IV Industries, the Amherst-based automotive components manufacturer that was one of the Buffalo Niagara region's fastest-growing companies in the 1990s, has won approval for its plan to emerge from bankruptcy court protection.

A bankruptcy court judge in New York City has confirmed Mark IV's reorganization plan, which gives the company's senior secured lenders an 88 percent ownership stake in the restructured company and slashes its debt by $800 million.

The approval by an overwhelming majority of Mark IV's creditors clears the way to emerge from bankruptcy protection in October.

"We are in a significantly stronger financial position today than we have been in the last nine years," said Mark Barberio, Mark IV's co-chief executive officer and chief financial officer.

The restructured Mark IV will have "a more rational capital structure" than it previously operated under, said Barberio, who joined the company in 1985 and has served as its co-CEO throughout the restructuring with Jim Orchard. They will continue to serve as co-CEOs of the restructured company, which has been hit hard by declining auto sales.

The restructuring leaves Mark IV "with a strong, stable platform from which to operate, invest and grow our business," Orchard said. "This is a tremendous accomplishment."

The restructuring reduces Mark IV's debt obligations by roughly two-thirds to about $400 million from $1.2 billion. The remaining 12 percent ownership stake in the company will be controlled by unsecured creditors. The company's equity holders will receive nothing.

Mark IV, which was founded in 1969 by local businessman Sal H. Alfiero, grew rapidly through a series of hostile takeovers and other acquisitions in the 1980s and early 1990s. The company, which employed 16,000 peo
ple worldwide at its peak, was part of the Fortune 500 for five years ending in 1994.

After Mark IV's explosive growth slowed in the second half of the 1990s, the company was acquired by British buyout firm BC Partners in May 2000 in a $2 billion deal. BC sold Mark IV in early 2008 to Sun Capital, a Boca Raton, Fla., private-equity firm that specializes in distressed investments. Mark IV is one of more than 10 Sun-owned businesses, including retailers Mervyn's and Lillian Vernon Corp., that have filed for bankruptcy protection since 2006.

Mark IV, whose headquarters is on John James Audubon Parkway, lost $147 million on $1.3 billion in sales during the fiscal year that ended in February. The company now employs 4,200 people at 18 factories and 20 distribution and technical centers scattered throughout 16 countries. The company makes power transmission equipment, such as belts, hoses and pulleys, as well as air intake and cooling systems for vehicles.

Mark IV's overseas operations and its Intelligent Vehicle Highway System, which makes EZPass electronic toll collection equipment used by the New York Thruway and toll roads in many other states, were not included in the bankruptcy filings.

e-mail: drobinson@buffnews.com

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