Once upon a time, Fuller Brush Co. was a household name in household supplies. Your grandma bought her wet mop from "Fuller Brush Men," the company's army of charismatic door-to-door salesmen.
But after more than 100 years in business, Fuller Brush experienced some hard times. The household supply firm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2012. Eight months later, Victory Park Capital, a Chicago-based private-equity firm, bought Fuller Brush for what sources say was at least $12 million.
Now Fuller Brush is liquidating its stockpiles of products and looking for new owners again. Victory Park did not respond to interview requests. But there are multiple bidders, says Count Copy-Fuller, an independent distributor for Fuller Brush. Copy-Fuller, formerly known as Jeff Pergoli, says he has been selling Fuller Brush products for more than 40 years.
A recording on the company's dealer phone hotline confirms the household firm is seeking offers.
"The current ownership of Fuller Brush and Stanley Home Products has decided to undertake certain strategic initiatives, one of which will result in a one-time liquidation of inventory," Larry Gray, vice president of sales, says in the recorded call. "After October — and during a possible change in ownership of the company — there could be a period of at least two to four months that inventory will not be available to distributors or consultants," Gray adds.
Richard Levy, Victory Park CEO and founder, "sees that this turnaround in the last five years hasn't been too successful," says Copy-Fuller, 65. "So what he's doing is trying to cash out, get rid of his inventory, and he doesn't really care if Fuller Brush goes out [of business] because he's got other companies that he's making money out of."
About six months ago, Fuller Brush reduced its number of products to about 40 from approximately 160, Copy-Fuller says. Of those 40 products still around, many are already out of stock, he says. The firm had been closing out its product lines since July, says another Fuller distributor on his website.
Fuller Brush will shut down its website, where dealers like Copy-Fuller can buy products at wholesale prices, by Nov. 1. Dealers won't be able to buy products wholesale for at least two months. The majority of Fuller Brush's sales come from door-to-door sales people, Copy-Fuller says.
"We strongly suggest that you purchase in October the inventory you need to supply your customers in the coming months," Gray urges dealers in the recorded call.
Fuller Brush was founded in 1906 in Kansas by Alfred Fuller. Its headquarters, according to the company's website, are now in Napa Valley, Calif. Copy-Fuller says the company went into a downward spiral after Sara Lee, which bought the company in 1968, sold it in 1989. When Victory Park bought Fuller Brush in October 2012, it split from the company's manufacturer, Kansas-based Fuller Industries.
Copy-Fuller also says David Sabin, who was brought in from a suburban Los Angeles baby-products company as Fuller Brush CEO by Victory Park, also never took much interest in the firm. Sabin, who foresaw a comeback for the company early in his tenure, lists his base as Napa, in his LinkedIn profile. "The problem with Fuller Brush, it had a president who didn't have a full-time active participation," Copy-Fuller says. "We're fighting the wars without a good leader."