Officials of Moll Industries Inc., which broke with appliance giant Whirlpool Corp. over a pricing dispute, said the company is selling its Whirlpool-centric plant in Fort Smith, Ark., to Moll's former president, Ron Embree.
As its long relationship with Whirlpool winds down, Moll had announced Oct. 27 that it was closing Fort Smith and two other factories, in La Vergne, Tenn., and New Braunfels, Texas. The move would have eliminated 416 jobs at the three plants.
The Embree deal, announced Nov. 21, is set to close Nov. 30.
With the ownership change, the Fort Smith site will remain solidly a Whirlpool supplier.
``Yes, I will continue to do some work for Whirlpool,'' Embree said in a Nov. 21 telephone interview. He said the Fort Smith operation is getting some work from other customers, but declined to identify them or the markets.
In Fort Smith, Whirlpool makes side-by-side refrigerators, trash compactors and ice makers. In recent years, Whirlpool has moved some of the refrigerator assembly to a new plant in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico.
Moll opened its own molding plant in Ramos Arizpe in late 2005 to serve Whirlpool. That plant remains open and owned by Moll. The company said the plant is winning more work outside of the appliance sector.
Embree heads up the new firm, called River Bend Industries, that is buying Moll's Arkansas plant and the equipment housed there. He declined to say anything about his financial backing, but said more details will be released after the sale closes.
Terms were not disclosed. Embree and Moll both declined to say how many injection presses the factory houses.
Moll said it expects the new ownership to offer jobs to many of Moll's Fort Smith employees. Local news reports said 137 people worked there when the plant-closing announcement was made.
Embree, 47, started working at Moll in 1990 as quality manager, then was promoted to plant manager at Fort Smith. He moved up to vice president and regional manager, then vice president of operations, before becoming president of Dallas-based Moll in 2003.
Embree said he left Moll in 2005.
In a news release announcing the sale, Moll said Embree ``brings intimate knowledge of the plant and its production capabilities.''
Moll and Whirlpool ended their 50-year relationship when the two companies could not agree on pricing for Moll's injection molded parts. A Whirlpool spokeswoman said, ``We don't comment on our relationship with individual suppliers or our supply chain strategy.''