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Columbia Manufacturing Seeks Chapter 11 Protection

March 5, 1991

WESTFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ Columbia Manufacturing, the nation’s oldest bicycle maker, has sought protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code.

Columbia officials said in a statement Tuesday that ″a myriad of problems″ led to the filing Friday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Worcester.

The company has been hit by the downturn in the national economy and increased foreign competition. Columbia also makes school furniture, sales of which have been hurt by cutbacks in spending by state and local governments.

Officials said ″increasing restrictions imposed by financial institutions have eliminated the company’s ability to reorganize through conventional means of refinancing.″

Columbia’s largest secured lender is the Bank of New England, which was taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. two months ago. Columbia, founded in 1877 by Alexander Pope, currently employs about 150 people at its Westfield headquarters. The business has been in this western Massachusetts city since 1904.

Last year it was the target of two buyout efforts. The first was launched by Roadmaster, a Colorado-based competitor, and the second by Columbia employees.

Robert Tomasini, business agent for the International Association of Machinists Local 2658, said management has scheduled a meeting Thursday with plant workers.

He said he could not comment on the filing, but said union workers were ″still very much interested″ in acquiring the plant.

Company President Kenneth Howard headed a management group that purchased Columbia from MTD Products of Cleveland in 1987.