Reports say Lane owner David Belford assisting in the United Furniture liquidation

TUPELO — Following the late November layoff of 2,700 United Furniture Inds. (Lane) employees, owner David Belford has “quietly taken an active role in the liquidation” of the company, according to sources referenced in a New York Post story yesterday.

Philip Hearn, an attorney who is suing United Furniture/Lane on behalf of employees, said that Belford has rehired Kim Harper, the former financial controller, and Helen Benefield, a former human resources executive, according to the Post.

“He rehired Harper and Benefield and others to save face because he was getting hammered,” Hearn said.

Sources in the Post story also report that United/Lane lenders, including Wells Fargo, are “spearheading the bulk of the shutdown” and paying for security to protect company assets. Several vendors for United Furniture/Lane have told Furniture Today that the company owes them millions of dollars and that they were surprised by the unexpected closing.

“We thought things were turning around for United Furniture,” Michael Smith, owner of Uwharrie Frames Mfg. told Furniture Today during a visit to the Asheboro, N.C., plant. During the discussion, Smith referenced work for both Uwharrie Frames and Lambeth Frames, two companies responsible for the lumber parts and plywood parts, respectively. “We had actually gotten a five-day work schedule for the week after Thanksgiving, and we had hopes of maybe we were going to get five days until the end of the year. It was kind of surprising to us to hear that because before we had been working three-day weeks recently.”

According to Post sources, UFI’s board has retained Mark Melickian, a Chicago-based partner and distressed-debt attorney at Sugar Felsenthal Grais & Helsinger. The Post reports that UFI has also hired Michael Kelly, an employment litigation attorney and partner at Squire Patton Boggs in San Francisco.

The New York Post had previously reported that Belford had left the country, a report he has subsequently denied in an interview with a local Ohio business journal.

Belford has not responded to repeated interview requests from Furniture Today. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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