Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The scams of private equity firms revealed (buried in NYT piece) in article on the Märklin model train company in Germany

The company started producing windup model trains in 1891, and continued to be owned by different branches of the family until 2006, when it was sold to Kingsbridge Capital, an investment firm. But the company was losing money and had to lay off many hundreds of employees, and in 2009 it filed for bankruptcy protection. Then, in 2013, the Simba Dickie group, a privately owned German toymaker, bought the company, trying to salvage what it saw as an important brand.  .....‘A Perfect World’ Around Every Miniature Bend - NYT

The above reveal is buried in this article in the business section of the Monday (March 22, 2021) Times caught my eye with this subheading

The pandemic has helped Märklin, a 162-year-old company that makes model trains, discover a new audience.

So I couldn't resist reading the article and came across the above paragraph - imagine a 162 year old company - actually 147 in 2006 when it was bought taken down in three years. But no surprise as it happens very often and has happened since the Reagan years. [See the 1991 Danny DeVito movie "Other People's Money" where he plays Larry the Liquidator --https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Other_People%27s_Money].

I've been fascinated by trains since I was a kid when I always made my parents sit in the first car so I could look out the front window. I still do  - or did- it until recently when I could even though the way subway cars are designed now with double glass make it weird looking. But how about rising out of the underground as the train gets into Yankee Stadium territory? What a thrill seeing the ball park come into view - at one time you could stand on the station and watch the game. And how about that train system in Europe - I once did a section of the Orient Express. And riding the bullet train in Japan a few years ago was fabulous. 

But I also love model trains since I saw my cousins' set when I was about 7 - yet have never had a set of my own. My good friend recently used his grandkids as an excuse to set one up with all kinds of doodads - he even bought one of those old train engineer hats. And every year I go to the transit store in Grand Central to watch the model trains for the Xmas setup.

But I've strayed from my purpose, which is to point to the lead item about the Märklin company founded in 1859 and run by the family until it was bought by an investment firm in 2006 and it took only three years to drive the company into debt, lay off numbers of people -- read the article and find out how talented the employees were -- and send it into bankruptcy.

The factory building is more than a century old, and touring the facility is a trip back in time: a factory floor with skilled manual laborers toiling over workbenches. Ms. Huta and her colleagues often use a microscope to attach tiny details like bells or handrails. The company employs about 1,170 full-time employees in its two locations in Göppingen and Gyor, Hungary.

This is the outrage of private equity - they buy firms, load them with debt which they use for whatever their needs, lay off and liquidate and send them into bankruptcy and often oblivion - see Sears and Toys R Us. 

There ought to be a law - these firms are evil. Luckily they were bought and save in 2013 by a toymaker, people who know the business rather than the vultures of private equity. Check the full article out with great pix. 

By the way, ultimately I believe charter chains like Success Academy have real estate on their minds as they take over entire public school buildings.

 https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/18/business/model-trains-pandemic.html 

 



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