Hartmarx workers pin hopes on new offer

May 20, 2009 3:20:03 PM PDT
There could be new hope for workers at a Chicago-area clothing maker. A London-based company has made an offer to purchase Hartmarx.

Hartmarx employees hope this new offer will save their jobs at the 120-year-old clothing company, including the factory in suburban Des Plaines.

Gov. Pat Quinn is asking Hartmarx key lender, Wells Fargo, to consider a bid rather than liquidate the company. The governor is hoping to save jobs.

Overall, there are 3,500 Hartmarx employees across the country. Six hundred people work at the factory in Des Plaines and, ironically, Wednesday is Employee Appreciation Day.

Hot dogs sizzle on the grill, but it's hardly a picnic for Hartmarx employees in Des Plaines.

"Give us an opportunity to keep our jobs. Because we still need to work," said Ruby Sims, 31 year employee.

Workers are fired up and held a rally on Wednesday morning after hearing that there's an offer to buy the bankrupt company.

"Today another bid has come forward. It's a serious bid, more than the reports say of $100 million," said Joe Costigan, treasurer, Workers United.

"We are happy if someone is going to buy the company...we are still working, that's what we want to do," said Lorena Vences, 11 year employee.

"I was happy, very happy," said Vera Kuzmyn, 45 year employee. When asked if she was confident the deal will happen, Kuzmyn said, "In a way, yes I am."

The bidder is Emerisque. The London-based company's Web site says they focus on turning around businesses. Their bid is reportedly worth more than $100 million and comes with a 24 hour deadline.

Emerisque says it's rejuvenated companies like Puma and Lee Cooper Jeans. And certainly they've noticed that Hartmarx has dressed President Barack Obama, like the night he was nominated in Chicago or the top coat he wore during the inauguration and the tuxedo that evening.

And now that the bid is on the table even Gov. Quinn says in a statement: "There's no time to waste. I strongly urge Wells Fargo to enter a deal to sell this company and save these important jobs."

But on Wednesday afternoon, Wells Fargo went back to a statement it released eight days ago, saying: " Despite extensive marketing, Hartmarx has no offers that satisfy the bank group's debt, but the bank group continues to work with Hartmarx to find potential buyers that are interested in making viable offers."

And there are other elected officials speaking out on Wednesday. Cook County Clerk David Orr was at Wednesday's rally and says nearly a $500,000 in property tax revenue will be lost if the company closes.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is warning that he will terminate Wells Fargo's contract with the state if the bank does not let companies, like Emerisque, buy Hartmarx.


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