E-ONE Sold To N.Y. Investment Firm

E-ONE, the Ocala, Fla.-based manufacturer of fire apparatus, is being sold to a New York City investment group for $20 million, according to its parent company, Federal Signal Corporation of Chicago.

The deal with American Industrial Partners (AIP) is expected to be concluded by the end of August. The purchase and sale agreement was announced July 16 following months of negotiations after Federal put E-ONE on the block earlier this year.

E-ONE is the country’s third largest manufacturer of fire trucks with more than 600 units sold last year at an estimated $218 million, but at a loss of nearly $25 million. Pierce Manufacturing of Appleton, Wis., is the nation’s leader with overall sales totaling about 2,000 trucks, followed by Rosenbauer America of Lyons, S.D., with nearly 1,000 units sold.

Several members of the E-ONE management team will have the option of buying a “significant” piece of ownership in the new company, according to E-ONE CEO Peter Guile who will remain the head of operations.

“We are delighted to have partnered with AIP,” Guile said. “AIP has demonstrated a deep understanding of the specialty vehicle market and brings a wealth of expertise in support of the E-ONE team.”

Guile said the management team at E-ONE “has reinforced its commitment to the company’s long term success” and that they and all employees look forward to working with AIP to strengthen operations and invest in new technologies.

“With many talented employees, strong dealers and loyal customers, E-ONE has maintained a longstanding reputation as a leader in the fire apparatus industry,” he said. “We are exceptionally pleased with the new ownership agreement and see a bright future ahead.”

All of E-ONE’s buildings, facilities and operations go with the sale, except the rights to the Bronto articulating aerial platform, which is manufactured in Europe and will remain with Federal Signal Corp. E-ONE will be the exclusive U.S. agent for the Bronto, which has been the most successful aerial apparatus of its type.

American Industrial Partners was formed in 1989 and has invested more than $1 billion in various companies on behalf of its fund partners. It has a long track record of investing in troubled companies, fixing the problems and, often years later, making a public stock offering or selling the companies to larger entities.

The investment company’s objectives are to obtain control of “mid-sized industrial companies that can benefit from the firm’s systematic approach to implementing strategic and operational improvements,” according to an AIP statement.

E-ONE manufactures a full range of firefighting apparatus from pumpers to rescues, aerial ladders and platforms to aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicles, with the exception of ambulances. It specializes in manufacturing custom fire trucks on chassis made in its Ocala plant and outsources most commercial chassis and brush trucks to Classic Fire, a company started by former E-ONE executives and also located in Ocala.

ALF Cuts Workforce, Moves Production

Financially-distressed American LaFrance said last month it is reducing its workforce and moving fire truck production out of its new facility in Summerville, S.C., to consolidate it at company plants in Ephrata, Pa., and Hamburg, N.Y.

The 124,000-square-foot Ephrata plant has been used to make aerials, and the 60,000-square-foot Hamburg plant has been dedicated to building stainless steel apparatus. The company said it would still turn out the chassis for its custom fire apparatus at Summerville and ship them to New York and Pennsylvania for completion and body fabrication.

In a brief statement issued July 11, the company said it was creating a new “Fire Business Unit” to be headed by Jim Eshleman, who managed the Ephrata plant and was promoted to vice president.

As for the 440,000-square-foot Summerville facility, the company said “vocational trucks” will continue to be produced there, and in addition it may host “several pending new vocational business ventures.”

The changes were described as a “major reorganization,” and American LaFrance said it was instituting “permanent and temporary reductions of employment in all its facilities to secure its imminent exit from Chapter 11.”

The company has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy since Jan. 28, when it sought refuge from unsecured creditors who were owed more than $80 million.

In April the creditors approved a plan of reorganization that paid those who were owed the most money 22.5 cents on a dollar. The plan was confirmed by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge on May 23.

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