Hardwick Clothes rejects last minute rival offer; Cleveland payday lender set to buy company

Hardwick Clothes rejects last minute rival offer; Cleveland payday lender set to buy company

June 3rd, 2014 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

In this file photograph, Phyllis Brown closes the vent on a sport coat at Hardwick Clothes in Cleveland, Tenn.

Allan Jones

Allan Jones

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Joe Williams III

Joe Williams III

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

America's oldest tailored suit maker should soon have a new owner after five generations in the Hardwick family.

The owners of the bankrupt Hardwick Clothes Inc., will recommend that a federal judge Friday sell the 134-year-old apparel maker to Cleveland businessman Allan Jones, who has offered to pay $1.9 million to buy the assets of Hardwick Clothes. But another local bidder for the company who emerged late Friday wants Hardwick creditors to consider what he claims is a better offer.

Chattanooga businessman Joe V. Williams III is offering to pay $200,000 more than what Jones bid for Hardwick, but company attorney Bruce Bailey said Monday that Williams' offer didn't meet the terms of the bidding requirements and should be rejected.

David Fulton, an attorney for Williams, said Monday night he plans to file an objection to the sale to Jones to allow creditors and U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Shelley Rucker the chance to consider Williams' proposal. Williams bid was sufficiently above Jones so-called "stalking horse" bid to be considered superior to Jones' initial offer, although Fulton acknowledged some of the bidding terms may not have been met by the proposal.

Fulton said Williams, who once worked at Hardwick Clothes and now heads Williams and Williams Realty Services, wants to try to keep the company operating.

Jones also has promised to try to revive Hardwick with a new CEO and investments to boost the company's suit and apparel sales.

Hardwick Clothes, which makes tailored suits and other clothing apparel in Cleveland, Tenn., filed for bankruptcy in December after years of losses and an inability to make a required payment the U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which helped bail out the company's underfunded employee pension program.

The company has continued operation under a Chapter 11 reorganization plan overseen by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Jones initial $2 million offer to buy the assets of Hardwick Clothes was reduced by $100,000 last month after a property review discovered environmental and structural problems with some of the company's assets. Jones, founder and CEO of the nation's biggest privately owned payday lending firm, Check Into Cash, said his purchase offer "is only a fraction" of what he plans to invest in Hardwick if he takes over the compan

In a letter to Williams, Hardwick CEO Tommy Hopper said the Williams bid did not include the required 10 percent cash deposit and the bid "has insufficient documentation and evidence of ability to pay cash for the over bid amount.

"The commitment letter you attached is conditional and subject to a number of contingencies," Hardwick said in an email to Williams. "As this is not a qualified bid, we will not conduct an auction on Monday, but shall instead submit the only bid, that of Jones Capital Corp, for approval on Friday."

Hardwick will submit only Jones' purchase offer to Judge Rucker for consideration at a hearing scheduled at 9:30 a.m. Friday in federal bankruptcy court in Chattanooga.

Founded in 1880 by C.L Hardwick, Hardwick Clothes is Cleveland's oldest manufacturing business. Hardwick has about 225 employees, down from a peak of about 900 employees a generation ago.

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

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