A former BFGoodrich Co. executive who helped launch the vinyl building products industry more than two decades ago is haunting BFG with a lawsuit. Robert T. Holtz is suingBFGoodrich and Geon Co. for $30 million, claiming BFG technical advice caused Vinylclad Inc. to go bankrupt in 1977. Holtz was with BFG for nearly 20 years; his last position before he founded Vinylclad was Geon market development manager.
Vinylclad produced vinyl siding in Wheaton, Ill., in 1976 until its demise and since has existed as a Delaware corporation with no business activities.
Holtz claims BFG had an oral contract in 1976 to provide technical expertise for making vinyl siding from Geon rigid cube resin in three twin-screw extruders. He said the resin firm's personnel specified force feeding of the twin screws, which overworked the resin, causing product quality problems, and severely damaged the extruders.
Vinylclad's suit was first heard in a status hearing on Aug. 30 in Wheaton at the 18th Judicial Circuit Court for Du Page County in Illinois. The court scheduled a second hearing for Sept. 27. Holtz, who is president of Vinylclad, filed the suit May 30.
Holtz blamed BFG for quality problems that caused Vinylclad to lose major contracts with Aluminum Co. of America and National Gypsum. His suit alleges fraudulent concealment, industrial sabotage, intentional negligence and fraud, and damage to his professional career.
Geon spokesman Dennis Coco confirmed Geon is named in the Vinylclad lawsuit. He would not comment beyond a statement that read: ``The suit is wholly without merit and we intend to vigorously defend our position.''
Geon Co. of Avon Lake, Ohio, was formed in 1993 when BFG spun off its Geon Vinyl Division.
BFGoodrich spokesman Rob Jewell said in a telephone interview that: ``Mr. Holtz's allegation is totally untrue. Moreover, we believe this matter was resolved in the early 1980s when his complaint was dismissed on two occasions by the courts in Illinois, and the Illinois Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal.''
Holtz claimed Vinylclad wanted to sue BFGoodrich for breach of contract after the bankruptcy but attorneys acting for the trustee and bankruptcy trustee filed it after the four-year statute of limitations had expired. The appellate court turned down another attempt to sue in 1985 because of the late date.
Holtz decided again to sue when he learned in 1993 that Illinois law allowed a suit for fraudulent concealment within five years of discovery of such concealment. Holtz interviewed Joseph Kelley, currently Geon's senior technical service manager, on May 5, 1993, and plans to use the comments from the interview as key evidence in his suit.
Kelley, Holtz claimed, was BFGoodrich's expert on twin-screw extrusion in 1976. For several months, Holtz claims, Kelley was not informed about Vinyl-clad's problems while other BFGoodrich engineers continued to instruct improper twin-screw procedures. Kelley finally was informed of the problems when Vinylclad was ``close to ceasing operations'' in October 1976, Holtz asserted in the suit.
By the time BFGoodrich staff recommended starve feeding of the twin screws, Vinylclad had cash-flow problems from which it could not recover.
Kelley could not be reached for comment.
Holtz said in an interview from Wheaton that while Vinylclad was having production prob-lems, BFGoodrich was trying to sell a turnkey vinyl siding process to Alcoa, an alleged Vinylclad customer.
``Vinylclad was an impediment to [BFGoodrich] business,'' Holtz said.
After Vinylclad's equipment was sold in 1977, Holtz was personally responsible for a debt of more than $300,000 to the Small Business Administration. The debt grew to about $775,000 by1988. Holtz said the debt caused him and his family distress and issues associated with the bank-ruptcy destroyed his career potential in the industry.
Holtz said he pressuredBFGoodrich to pay off the SBA debt. The resin producer gave Holtz a three-year consulting contract beginning in 1988 with contract monies being used to pay off the debt. Holtz said he did not receive any personal income in the deal and that the contract did not prohibit him from taking any future action against the company. Holtz continued to seek a settlement with BFG and approached its board of directors in 1992 requesting an investigation.
Al Todd, an executive withBFGoodrich Canada Inc. until he retired in 1990, said in a telephone interview from his home in Waterloo, Ontario, that Holtz was key to BFGoodrich's efforts in developing the vinyl siding, window and pipe industries.