Former CEO Fred Carl told Viking employees in emails to expect few changes
by Clay Chandler
Published: February 8,2013
In the email, obtained by the Mississippi Business Journal, Carl says that Viking is in good hands, that the sale will help the kitchen appliance maker grow and that employees will maintain their current positions. He adds that operations at Viking will remain the same. Carl writes that the $380-million Viking acquisition would allow Middleby, which manufactures commercial cooking equipment, to enter the residential market.
“In order to do so, it was obvious that we would need to not only stay in Greenwood and remain the same company that we are today, but that we would continue to grow and take advantage of all the synergies that exist between Viking and Middleby. All of our employees would stay right where they are, corporate headquarters would remain in Greenwood, and the company would be expected to continue growing and expanding, just as we’ve done in the past. So Viking and the Viking family would remain intact and very little would change, other than the support Middleby will provide in helping us grow. All of that greatly appealed to me and was a major factor in our deciding to become part of the Middleby Corporation.”
Thirty-one days after Carl’s email, Middleby laid off 20 percent of Viking’s employees, half of those in Greenwood. The same day, Carl announced he was resigning from the company he started in 1982. Carl said in the email to employees that he would remain as Viking CEO.
Middleby officials gave no explanation for Carl’s resignation. A Viking spokesperson said last week that Carl was traveling and unavailable for comment.
Middleby CEO Selim Bassoul said one day after the layoffs that they were meant to improve efficiency in the face of new home construction having yet to recover from the recession and new government regulations related to energy usage standards for dishwashers and refrigerators. He added that if Viking’s sales grew there was a possibility at least some of the terminated employees could be rehired. Bassoul said Viking headquarters would stay in Greenwood, something he called “not negotiable.”
Carl wrote that Middleby shared the same values as Viking, something that played a big part in his decision to sell the company.
“They understand the importance of people and community,” Carl’s email says. “They have extensive expertise in cooking and kitchen technology that we can leverage for future, innovative Viking products. They understand product innovation and will be very helpful to us in further expanding the Viking product line and keeping it on the leading edge of the industry. It’s also nice that Viking will be Middleby’s largest operating company.”
Carl also wrote that he was “totally confident” Viking’s becoming a Middley subsidiary would be good for the company and its employees.
“I know this is a major event but I truly believe that, after a little time passes, you’re going to see that there are going to be very few changes, that Viking is essentially going to remain the same Viking as before, and that we will continue to grow and prosper as we have in the past.”
In his comments to reporters and Greenwood officials the day after the layoffs, Bassoul said he would define major changes for Viking as the company leaving Greenwood, and not a reduction in workforce or the closing of the Memphis and Ridgeland cooking schools.
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