Turning the page
A tumultuous two years: Part 3 of Worzalla Series
By Kris Leonhardt
The company remained in the Worzalla family until president, William “Skip” Worzalla, announced to the company’s 185 full-time employees in January 1984 that they had reached an agreement in principle to sell.
The Worzalla family cited lack of working capital, though sales had gone up, stating that stockholders could not raise the capital funds for new equipment.
Local newspapers chronicle the impending purchase of the company by a Chicago investment group headed by Graham Core and John Riddell. Core and Riddell stated that there would be no significant changes to the company operations, and that they would keep the Worzalla name.
Core stated that the investment group, WISP Inc., was organized to recapitalize and reposition businesses to grow.
Charles Nason, who had served as executive vice president and chief executive officer, stayed on to oversee day-to-day operations.
In May, the company announced that the sale had been finalized.
In December, during a Worzalla holiday party, Core and Riddell announced that Nason would become the company’s president and CEO.
“The company was family owned until the early 80s, and then the Worzalla family sold out to a couple of Chicago investors who did not do very well with the business. They raided the pension fund and did some untoward things that put the company, literally, in jeopardy,” said current Worzalla President/CEO Jim Fetherston.
“So, the employees banded together, and they made repeated attempts; and every time they tried, the outside investors reneged on an agreement and then asked for more money.
“Finally, I think on the third attempt, and they raised the price three times; on that third attempt, they finally executed a transaction that took the company away and created an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan.)”
In June 1986, Nason announced that the company would once again be locally owned, finally reaching an agreement in principle to purchase the company’s outstanding stock from Core and Riddell. One-third of the company’s stock had already been purchased by the employees and the agreement involved the remainder of the company stock.
At the same time, Nason announced that Worzalla had purchased 50 percent of Delair Publishing stock. Delair was a New York publishing company that owed Worzalla money. The purchase was part of a joint deal with an Illinois publisher.
The company’s Polish-language newspaper, Gwiazda Polarna, was also transferred to WIIDE Publications Group, of Stevens Point, as Worzalla focused solely on manufacturing books.
Next week: Employee ownership