Gibson Guitars out of bankruptcy

Gibson Brands, known mostly for its guitars, announced new executives who they hope will guide the company through a monumental transition as it emerges from bankruptcy protection. The company’s newly named president and CEO is James “JC” Curleigh, who is moving from his role as president of Levi Strauss & Co. to take the position.

To round out the new leadership team it will be Cesar Gueikian as new chief merchsnt officer, chief financial officer will be Kim Mattoon and its chief production officer will be Christian Schmitz.

Earlier this month a bankruptcy court in Delaware approved Gibson’s reorganization plan to get itself out of bankruptcy and keep itself in business.

On the team’s first day on the job November 1st, the investment firm of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) will assume majority ownership control of Gibson.

Under the reorganization plan, the company will continue to manufacture its namesake Gibson and Epiphone guitars, as well as maintain its professional audio business that makes studio monitors and loudspeakers under the names KRK and Cerwin Vega. It will be dropping its efforts to push into the home entertainment and headphone areas, areas the company hoped would make up for the decline in instrument sales, but which accounted for much of its debt.

In filings earlier this year, Gibson estimated that it was up to $500 million in debt.

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Kenmore warranties and Sears bankruptcy

Sears has filed for bankruptcy and many aer wondering what will happen to their Kenmore appliance warranties.

The good news is Sears is honoring those warranties. The company said in a statement,  “We are honoring our warranties, protection agreements and guarantees as normal,” the company said in a statement. If you need help with a replacement part for your appliance, check out the Sears PartsDirect Site.

Eric Arnum, editor of Warranty Week, which reports on the warranty industry said,.    “Normally consumers haven’t had to worry about their warranties being dissolved in the wake of a company going out of business.

When Circuit City and CompUSA filed for bankruptcy, outside insurance companies stepped in, and all extended warranties were honored. “That’s been the case for decades in the U.S.,” Arnum said. The reason: Many states mandate that a company work with outside insurance companies or demonstrate assets of a certain amount to continue coverage for consumers.”

So, even though you don’t have to worry about your current warranty, you should definitely think twice about extended warranties in the future. Here’s why you should think twice.

Warnings about extended warranties aren’t new. Consumer Reports against them for decades.

Margot Gilman, Consumer Reports money editor says,  “Consumer Reports has always advised consumers to be wary of extended warranties. Whenever we’ve analyzed them, and surveyed our members about their experiences with them, we’ve reached the conclusion that the benefits don’t outweigh the costs. There are better, more financially prudent alternatives to extended warranties for people who want to protect themselves against products that may break.”

Consumer Reports found that almost two-thirds of consumers rated aggressive pitches to buy extended warranties a top annoyance.

Yet in 2017, consumers bought $44.6 billion in extended warranties, according to Warranty Week. In 2010, extended warranties totaled $31.3 billion.

Warranty Week editor Eric Arnum says,  “People are often helpless in the face of a determined salesperson. There are people who can sell snowshoes in Hawaii, and they are extremely skilled.

The top offenders according to Arnum P.C Richards and Sears.

“Most consumers do not go into the store even thinking about extended warranties until the salesperson says, ‘Hey, thought about protection?’” Arnum says. “All the research they do is on the product, so it’s easy to convince one in three people, on average, to buy them.”

Many consumers see their kids’ cellphones as a peril worth insuring. They might not think they need the break/fix protection, Arnum says, but loss/theft is seen as worthwhile. ‘What if I drop it?’ You see that with laptops [people are attracted to] the accidental damage protection. Even the Consumer Reports people say loss/theft is good.”

Another critic of extended warranties is Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. “When something is a big profit center for a company, it’s probably not in the best interest of the consumer,” says Rheingold.

“I don’t typically think they’re worth it,” Rheingold said. “Whether [something] needs repairs along the way, the standard warranty is usually good enough.”

“Another issue is you can’t always see the cost of a warranty before you buy a product.” On the Sears website, which is still open for business, a customer has to place a specific refrigerator in the shopping cart before seeing the cost options for an extended warranty.

On its website, The Federal Trade Commission, has a section called ‘Who’s responsible for the contract,’ that says “Before you sign a contract for an extended warranty, think about the company’s financial situation and consider whether the business is reputable.”

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Sears bankruptcy looms

Unless Sears can come up with $134 million by Monday it will need to declare bankruptcy. Sears most recent filing showed it only had $193 million on hand as of August and another $269 million available to it from lenders.

All signs point to bankruptcy next week since out of that on hand money the company has to pay vendors, employees and stock up on inventory for the holidays.

Also, three companies that sell items at Sears told Reuters that Sears had missed payments to them over the past few weeks. One of Sears’ major shareholders recently dumped a large bunch of his stock for pennies on his original investment. The company added a new director last week who is familiar with bankruptcies and restructuring.

Robert Schulz, chief credit analyst for the retail industry for Standard & Poor’s said despite years of losses, store closings and other financial problems, “the possibility of a bankruptcy does seem to be higher than over the past couple of years,” . He said in years past the situation did not have the “sense of urgency” that exists now.

The investor mentioned above, Bruce Berkowitz of Fairholme Capital Management dumped 142,000 shares of Sears last week.

The Wall Street Jouirnal recently reported Sears has also hired M-III Partners, a boutique advisory firm specializing in seeing companies through bankruptcies and restructuring. The company is also talking to lenders about providing it with debtor-in-possession financing, according to CNBC. That kind of loan is used by companies that file for bankruptcy to fund operations during the process.

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Tops to close 10 underperfoming NY State stores

This past May a NYC bankruptcy judge gave the bankruptcy beleagured Tops Supermarket chain permission to close 10 of its underperforming stores in New York State, but the chain refused to say which stores would be shuttered. This past August that changed. The following are the ten stores that will be closing.

  • 2120 West Genesee St., Syracuse
  • 4141 South Salina St., Syracuse
  • 710 Lake Ave., Rochester
  • 175 N. Winton Road, Rochester
  • 6720 Pittsford/Palmyra Road, Fairport
  • 33 Forgham St., Lyons
  • 381 Hamilton St., Geneva
  • 909 West 1st St. S., Fulton
  • 299 S. Main St., Elmira
  • 622 Lake Flower Ave., Saranac Lake

Frank Curci, Tops’ chief executive officer told the Buffalo News, “There are a few stores that are not performing to our standards, due to a number of factors including location, store size, lack of visibility, and lease costs. “We are using the tools available to us through the court-supervised process to conduct an orderly wind down of these stores.”

The ten stores slated to close are scheduled to shutter by the end of November.

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Student debt solution? Allow bankruptcy

One of the great financial burdens today is student debt. Gigantic tuition hikes over the last few decades have saddled college graduates with insurmountable debt that can’t be relieved by bankruptcy.

In 1978, the bankruptcy laws were overhauled and the ability to discharge studennt loans was taken away. The reasoning was tuitions were much lower and there was a robust job market and most graduates had no problems getting jobs.

Fast forward 30 year and tuitions have skyrocketed and graduates have no avenue to climb out from under the debt even if they are gainfully employed.

The ability to declare bankruptcy as a last resort has long been a vital element of American society yet that is denied to young people who need to borrow for their education.

Back when the law was changed, student loan defaults were not an issue. Now due to the high cost of college, defaults are common and a change in the law is needed.

Last year U.S. News and World Report released study saying total student debt now tops $1.3 trillion. It’s the single fastest-growing segment of U.S. consumer debt, increasing by 170 percent over the past ten years. 44 million Americans currently have student debt, and 8 million of those have already defaulted on their loans.

We define that as a crisis.


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