July 14, 2021, saw four Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings related to the folding of Consolidated Glass Holdings, Inc., putting the future of subsidiary companies J.E. Berkowitz L.P., Columbia Commercial Building Products Acquisition LLC, and Shaw Glass Holdings, LLC d/b/a Solar Seal Massachusetts in doubt.
These filings follow a February 5, 2021, statement from Consolidated Glass about the operations of its subsidiaries which noted that J.E. Berkowitz and Columbia Commercial would be winding down operations while Solar Seal’s operations continued — albeit with a small level of uncertainty.
Consolidated Glass Holdings acquired J.E. Berkowitz in November 2016, and has faced significant restructuring since the acquisition: From 2016 to 2021, the company had five separate CEOs.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is known as “liquidation bankruptcy,” as it provides for the sale of a debtor’s nonexempt property and the distribution of any proceeds to outstanding creditors. Unlike a Chapter 13 filing, Chapter 7 bankruptcy does not involve the filing of a plan of repayment or restructuring, usually resulting in the liquidation of assets and loss of property.
The financial situation for Consolidated Glass appears fairly dire: The company’s bankruptcy filing notes estimated assets between $100,000 and $500,000, but liabilities between $50 million and $100 million.
Like so many other companies, Consolidated Glass and its subsidiaries struggled in the COVID-19 pandemic, considering this to be a major reason for having to cease operations.
A statement from Consolidated Glass said “CGH today clarified its ongoing position in the glass and glazing marketplace…All of [the company’s core operations], like our entire world, were affected by the global pandemic that began in earnest in March of 2020. While some of the operations continue to have success, some were more severely impacted resulting in necessary corporate actions.”
Consolidated Glass is not alone in struggling during this period. The pandemic’s wake has left a number of companies around the country filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in states such as Florida, New Jersey, and California.
Robert Cummings, President and CEO of Consolidated Glass, spoke of the difficulties faced by the company and its subsidiaries, saying “This is an extremely challenging time in our world in all aspects. From our health and wellbeing in everyday life, to the disruptions on the business side of things. We have many incredible people at CGH, a loyal customer base, amazing vendors, as well as a great financial partner, and we are doing everything we can to move all efforts in the right direction.”
“I am proud of our team and how hard everyone continues to fight on. We will continue to examine all avenues for the future of the CGH and SSI companies and will do what we do best: manufacture, fabricate, and deliver high-quality products at our ongoing operations,” Cummings continued.
Closure is further accompanied by possible workers’ rights violations
Unfortunately, the closure and bankruptcy of Consolidated Glass and its subsidiaries haven’t been as smooth as many would have liked.
In March 2021, a class-action lawsuit was proposed that alleged J.E. Berkowitz, Consolidated Glass, and parent company Czech Asset Management “failed to provide workers at their Pendricktown, New Jersey glassmaking facility with proper notice before their employment was suspended and ultimately terminated.”
After ostensibly shutting down operations on February 2, 2021 — and permanently closing operations within the next month — the lawsuit claims that the companies violated the federal WARN Act and New Jersey’s Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act by not providing adequate notice of the mass layoffs.
“Defendants could have, but failed to, evaluate the impact of business circumstances prior to February 2021 to provide notice to its employees prior to the mass layoff,” the lawsuit claimed. “The March 5, 2021 announcement caused at least 100 employees working for Defendants to be immediately terminated without cause.”
The lawsuit further added that the companies acted in bad faith during its communications when closing the facility in February 2021, saying that despite communicating that employees were only to be furloughed for 60 days, “its business had been suffering for a long period of at least six months prior,” and the companies “did not have a legitimate intention to reopen the facility in 60 days.”
“At the time it furloughed Named Plaintiffs and Class Plaintiffs, Defendants were not actively seeking new capital for the purpose of reopening the Pendricktown Facility…Defendants were not actively seeking new business for the purpose of reopening the Pendricktown Facility,” the suit further alleged.
Individual operators close operations and furlough employees, sell off assets
Clarifying the position of J.E. Berkowitz, the company’s statement noted that “JEB has officially paused operations and furloughed its employees. As one of the most accomplished glass fabricators in our industry, with signature work all over the United States, the delays that initially came with the onset of COVID-19 took a significant toll.”
“Furthermore, disruptions to the workforce as a result of the pandemic were substantial, leading CGH to decide to suspend manufacturing operations at JEB,” the statement continued.
In February 2021, Consolidated Glass noted that “[Columbia Commercial Building Products] is winding down operations primarily due to the lease at its Rockwall, Texas, facility.”
“CCBP has performed well through these challenging times and, unfortunately, the increase in fixed lease expenses and the potential cost of moving the equipment and operation is too much to bear for the organization as a whole,” the company’s statement continued.
“Solar Seal is currently open and operating. However, a notice of the plant closure was sent to employees based on the current situation. We are hopeful that conditions will improve and that we will be able to revise our outlook and continue operations at Solar Seal.”
Since the announcement of Consolidated Glass’ various closures in February 2021, a number of outside companies have acquired the assets of the different subsidiaries — with assets of J.E. Berkowitz, Columbia Commercial, and Solar Seal all being purchased.
In April 2021, Frameless Hardware Company announced that it had “substantially acquired” assets of Columbia Commercial Building Products from Consolidated Glass.
A statement from Frameless Hardware President Chris Hanstad said that the purchase was largely made to capitalize on the long-respected background of the Columbia Commercial brand.
“Architectural aluminum has long been the next logical addition to FHC’s product offering,” said Hanstad. “Columbia’s quality and integrity are well known and the addition of these systems gives our customers a single-source solution to partner with on their projects.”
Additionally, in April 2021, Glasswerks — a “full-service fabricator of architectural glass” — announced it had acquired the glass manufacturing assets of Columbia Commercial and J.E. Berkowitz.
“This acquisition marks the latest investment as Glasswerks solidifies its national presence,” said a company statement. “Through this purchase Glasswerks has added multiple tempering lines, insulating glass (IGU) lines, a laminated line, and substantial supporting assets to its current production. Continued expansion and investments have effectively made Glasswerks one of the largest privately-owned custom glass fabricators west of the Mississippi.”