Shower-door maker Maax to shut 3 plants

Posted: July 11, 2009

Maax USA, which makes shower doors for the residential market, will close its plants in Southampton, Bensalem, and Warminster on Sept. 1.

Daniel Stewart, the company's vice president and retail-division manager, notified the state Bureau of Workforce Development on July 1 of the decision to close the plants, as required under the Worker Adjustment and Remaining Notification Act.

Maax USA is a subsidiary of Maax Holdings Inc. of Ste.-Marie, Quebec.

The company employs 1,400 at 13 plants and independent distribution centers in North America and Europe, including the three in Bucks County.

Company officials in Quebec could not be reached for comment.

Tom Kane, shop steward for Teamsters Local 115, said 100 of his members at the three plants would lose their jobs. Twenty nonunion employees would be affected as well, according to the company filing.

Kane said the closings were the result of a decision by Home Depot to stop carrying the Maax bathroom-product line, Keystone by Maax.

"They represented 95 percent of the company sales," Kane said.

The company also closed a plant in California last week, he said.

Keystone Shower Doors was started by Abram Finkel in 1932 as a manufacturer and installer of custom shower doors. It became KSD Industries in 1960, and was purchased by Maax in 1997 as part of a major expansion program.

Doors are made at Southampton and Bensalem. Metal is warehoused at the Warminster facility.

In 2004, J.W. Childs Associates, a Boston-based private equity firm, took the company private, leading a leveraged buyout of Maax Holdings for $481 million, and held a 55 percent stake in the company.

When the housing slowdown began cutting deeply into Maax's revenue, and the company missed a debt payment in December 2007, Standard & Poor's lowered the company's credit rating, according to Thomson's Mergers & Financial Acquisitions.

In July 2008, Maax and its subsidiaries filed for Chapter 15 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

Brookfield Bridge Lending Fund Inc., a fund of Brookfield Asset Management Inc., took over Maax in a $275 million debt-forgiveness deal in September 2008.

Maax is now owned by Tricap Partners Ltd., a private equity fund managed by Brookfield Asset Management. Maax CEO Paul Golden said on the company's Web site that Tricap's ownership "provides us with a stronger balance sheet and greater financial flexibility."

That affords little comfort to Kane and his membership, who will meet with Maax representatives next week to discuss the closings and details of the severance package.

"We don't know what the severance offer will be," he said. "We're trying to do our best for our members, but these are tough times."

Contact staff writer Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472 or aheavens@phillynews.com.

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