published Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Belgium company buys Cobble from Spencer Wright Industries

Three years after the death of Chattanooga industrialist Spencer Wright, his heirs sold the family-owned Cobble tufting equipment manufacturer on Tuesday to one of the world's biggest textile equipment makers.

Michel Van de Wiele NV of Marke, Belgium, bought the assets of the worldwide Cobble organization to unite two of the most historic and famous names in textile manufacturing technology. The sale will change the name, but not the operations or 140-employee staff of Cobble, according to Robert Forrest, director of operations for the 25-employee tufting equipment office and plant in Dalton, Ga.

Cobble, formerly owned by the Singer sewing machine company and once the world's biggest tufting equipment maker, was bought by Chattanoogan Spencer Wright in 1976. Wright, a former Singer manager, built the textile equipment company with signature brands such as Colortec and acquired the maker of Crabtree weaving machinery before his death in 2010.

But the carpet recession and unfunded pension obligations at the company's biggest plant in Blackburn, England pushed Cobble into the red. According Jordans Business information, Cobble Blackburn, the company's biggest operation, lost $327,700 on sales of $20.8 million in 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available.

Nelson Irvine, a director and attorney for Spencer Wright Industries, said Cobble operated plants in Dalton, Ga., the United Kingdom and China.

"The Wright family, shareholders, directors and officers of Spencer Wright Industries Inc. are delighted to honor the wishes of the late Spencer Wright in securing the best possible outcome for the Cobble Group companies and products, thus creating a bright future for its worldwide family of employees under the stewardship of its new owners," Irvine said in a statement Tuesday.

The Van de Wiele Group employs more than 2,500 workers around the globe and generates more than $500 million in annual sales through the production and sale of high-speed carpet and velvet weaving machines, yarn extrusion machines and electronic Jacquard machines.

The newly acquired companies for the Van de Wiele Group will operate as Cobble, a division of Van de Wiele-Iro Inc., in the United States, as Cobble -- Van de Wiele Ltd in England and as Cobble Suzhou (Machinery) Co. Ltd in China.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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