A recent two-day auction capped a peculiar final chapter for King Plastics Inc., a Kent, Wash., molder and toolmaker.
The March 27-28 auction sold off 40 injection molding machines, a custom-designed rotational molding system and toolmaking, printing, packaging, assembly and warehouse equipment.
Just 11 months earlier, George Maitland's Holdings Inc. had created King by acquiring the assets of McCawley Precision Machine Corp. and U.S. Playgrounds Inc.
The story of the company's final months in business is complicated, and even simple details like who was in charge are in dispute. On Nov. 15, when a Plastics News reporter visited the firm, John H. McAllister said he had replaced Maitland as president and chairman. A business card obtained at the time confirmed those titles.
In a March 31 telephone interview, however, McAllister denied ever being president and chairman or having financial control. He said he was an investor owning 40-45 percent of the company. McAllister said Maitland owned an equal percentage.
Also, McAllister said the firm's official identity was changed to K Plastics because a Florida firm owned the King name. The auction brochure said the equipment was located at the "facility formerly of King Plastics Inc."
McAllister referred other questions to Seattle lawyer David L. Friend, who declined comment.
GE Capital's business credit office in Los Angeles was King's secured lender.
"Around the middle of January, McAllister met with GE and decided to surrender the assets of King Plastics to the lender," said Ted Phelps, a turnaround consultant with Phelps Associates in Tustin, Calif. At GE's suggestion, McAllister had retained Phelps for advice.
"All operations were wound down, molds were returned to customers [and] the auction was scheduled," Phelps said in a telephone interview. "GE took a substantial loss."
King was down to about 15 employees when operations ceased.
For the auction, GE Capital retained San Francisco-based Rabin Worldwide, an auction and appraisal firm.
Edward McCawley, currently of Issaquah, Wash., established McCawley Precision Machine in Colorado in 1970, initially to engineer and design tools for molders. In 1975 he relocated the business to Washington state and, by 1980, began injection molding parts with five presses.
In 1989, the firm moved into the custom-designed, 196,000- square-foot Kent plant and eventually had capabilities for molding, tool building and secondary operations. McCawley Precision Machine injection molded storage containers, sporting goods, medical devices and electronic enclosures.
McCawley said his allied businesses employed 160 and had 1999 sales of about $16 million.
McCawley said that after Maitland bought the company April 30, Maitland almost immediately "broke my employment contract and fired 93 years of experience in 10 days." McCawley has sued the new ownership over the contract dispute, and the case is pending in Seattle Superior Court.
Gary Bacon, former owner of U.S. Playgrounds, remained with King into January and, at the auction, reacquired one of his former firm's rotational molding ovens, according to McCawley.
U.S. Playgrounds was located in Auburn, Wash., and made plastic playground equipment for commercial and residential markets. Maitland had renamed the business U.S. Parks & Recreation Supply. During the summer, McAllister had moved the rotomolding operation to the Kent plant.