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Parent company reduces Viking workforce by 20 percent (Updated)

January 31st, 2013 1 comment

Middleby Corp. confirmed Thursday afternoon that it had laid off earlier in the day 20 percent of Viking Range’s 700 employees.

Middleby spokesperson Darcy Bretz said in an email to the Mississippi Business Journal that the cuts were made “from different job classifications across the Viking enterprise.” She said half the layoffs were employees in Greenwood, where Viking maintains its headquarters.

Calls to Viking officials in Greenwood were not immediately returned.

Illinois-based commercial cooking equipment maker Middleby announced the $380 million Viking acquisition on New Year’s Eve last year. Viking founder Fred Carl Jr. told the Greenwood Commonwealth newspaper shortly afterward that he would remain as CEO for the next several years, and that the company would maintain a substantive presence in Greenwood. Viking’s hospitality subsidiaries, including the cooking schools and The Alluvian Hotel, were part of the sale.

>> Read related post: Viking sale leaves Greenwood hanging

About two weeks ago, the Jackson advertising and brand management firm that counts Viking as a client confirmed that it had reduced its workforce while Middleby focused the range maker’s marketing efforts in-house as it examined the overall marketing budget.

The Ramey Agency president Jack Garner said then the firm would still perform external marketing functions for Viking, including a large project in Canada.

Update: Bretz confirmed Thursday night that Carl has resigned, effective immediately.

Ramey cuts workforce while new Viking owner examines marketing budget

January 21st, 2013 No comments

A decision by Middleby Corp., the Illinois-based parent company of Viking Range, to curtail the marketing budget for the high-end kitchen appliance maker has led to a Jackson ad agency reducing its number of employees.

Jack Garner, president of The Ramey Agency, said Monday afternoon that the firm specializing in brand strategy and marketing communications had recently “eliminated a number of positions,” but did not say exactly how many. Ramey’s website lists 39 employees between its Jackson headquarters and its media office in Memphis. Garner said the positions eliminated were all in the Jackson office.

Garner said Middleby told Ramey shortly after the acquisition in December that it would focus its marketing efforts in-house and limit outside expenses for Viking while its overall promotional budget was being evaluated.

“Any outside marketing for Viking will continue to come through Ramey,” Garner said in a phone interview, noting his agency was still working on a large project in Canada for the range maker.

At full strength, Viking was a substantial account, Garner said, but it was only a minority of the firm’s work. “More than 80 percent of our work is non-Viking clients,” he said. Among the clients listed on Ramey’s website are BankPlus, Entergy, University of Mississippi Medical Center and the Mississippi Development Authority.

“We are really fortunate to have a significant number of blue-chip clients. We’ve been able to enjoy steady and solid growth because of that. Dealing effectively with a cycle of changes is normal for any agency. We’ve done our best to stay nimble and ready to do whatever is needed. We are considering all opportunities for business expansion, which is an ongoing commitment, and also looking to control expenses.”

Middleby officials had not responded to phone and email messages by mid-afternoon Monday.

Viking Classic sponsorship talks on hold until tournament’s end

June 22nd, 2011 No comments

There’s very little that we know for sure about the negotiations to either keep Viking Range Corp. as the title sponsor of the Viking Classic, or to find a new one.

What is certain is that Randy Watkins, tournament director, and his team will not resume talks with anybody until after the tournament is over. The Viking tees off July 11 with the pre-tourney events; the first round starts July 14.

Watkins told Magnolia Marketplace Wednesday morning that the PGA Tour has given him a soft deadline of late August to reach a deal with a title sponsor. How rigid that deadline is unclear, even to Watkins.

“I don’t know because I’ve never pushed it,” he said. “I know we’re aiming at it.”

The Tour will release its full 2012 schedule in November, so it would seem having the title sponsor on board by then would be imperative.

As for who that company is, Watkins offered precious few hints. To go with Viking, the companies Watkins has had negotiations with are household names, he said, and at least some are based in Mississippi. “All I can say is we’re working with (Viking) and others who have expressed interest. I don’t know if it’s unlikely (that Viking will not re-up), but there’s just nothing to be said one way or the other right now.”

This is Viking’s fifth year as the title sponsor. Southern Farm Bureau flew its flag before that; and prior to that, the old Deposit Guaranty bank had its name on the door. Watkins said the total cost — including cash and personnel costs — associated with the title sponsorship is “close to a $1 million.”

The Viking tees off a full two months earlier than it has in recent years. That’s good, Watkins said, because it guarantees all four rounds will be broadcast live by the Golf Channel, and it assures the tournament will be a part of the FedEx Cup.

But the earlier date also constricts by about 100 days the negotiating window Watkins had with potential sponsors. “It would have been nice to have that extra time, but the TV exposure and the FedEx Cup make up for that,” he said.

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Viking Classic economic impact numbers have arrived

January 27th, 2011 No comments

Thursday morning, Magnolia Marketplace got some numbers we’ve been waiting on for several weeks.

A study commissioned by the Mississippi Development Authority and conducted by Mississippi State’s College of Business and its Extension Service took a look at the economic impact of the PGA Tour’s Viking Classic, played every year at Annandale Golf Club in Madison.

Surveyors asked 2,500 attendees at last fall’s Viking how much money they spent on things like food, gas, hotel rooms, how much money they spent at the course on memorabilia, etc.

Here’s what they found:

The total economic impact of the tournament is $22 million. That includes a value added total of $12.5 million, which reflects things like return in rents, wages, interest and profits, according to a press release from MSU. That economic activity created 362 jobs, including 280 direct jobs and 77 indirect jobs.

“It’s a significant amount,” said Dr. Becky Smith, an economist for the College of Business who coordinated the project with Garen Evans and Al Myles, MSU Extension economists in the agricultural economics department.

The total estimated impact on labor income came in at $7.2 million, including $4.9 million worth of income directly attributable to the event, and an another $2.3 million from indirect and induced impacts. Estimated sales taxes collected from Viking-related spending was $1.5 million.

Before this latest study, the last economic impact analysis of the Viking Classic came in the mid-1990s and pegged it at $20 million. It’s no surprise at all that the new numbers came in over that.

These figures will be a part of the sales pitch for tournament organizers when it comes time to sit down with Viking Range to start renewal negotiations. Viking’s title sponsorship contract expires after this year’s tournament, which will be played in July instead of September.

The MDA paid MSU $30,000 to conduct the study. Surveys were taken by undergraduate students at MSU’s College of Business and were gathered during the three-day run-up to the tournament and during the four days of play.

This year’s Viking most important ever?

July 6th, 2010 No comments

Though it doesn’t tee off for nearly another three months, the 2010 Viking Classic has already shaped up to be a critical event for its organizers, its sponsors and the Metro Jackson area as a whole.

If you haven’t already seen our story about it in this week’s MBJ, check it out.

What makes this year’s Viking probably more important than any other is that the contract that names Greenwood-based Viking Range as the title sponsor expires when the tournament ends Oct. 3. This is also the last year of the agreement between the PGA Tour and Annandale Golf Club for the course to host the tournament. All the involved parties are in negotiations to extend both deals.

Nobody we talked to, on either side, was comfortable putting a timetable on when a decision would be made. But it was clear that, at least from the perspective of the local folks, the Viking means an awful lot, and not just economically, even though the tournament pumps an estimated $20 million into the area.

Randy Watkins, golf course magnate and executive director of the Viking, talked for a long time about how much pride he and his team, and the folks from Annandale, take in putting on a good show for the players and spectators. That makes what happened last year — when the tournament was canceled all together by heavy rains — especially difficult for them to swallow. It also makes them more determined than ever to put their best foot forward this year.

A lot rides on this year’s Viking, maybe the future of the tournament itself.

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More layoffs at Viking Range

October 19th, 2009 4 comments

The Viking Classic tees off next week at Annandale Golf Club in Madison, an event that brings a lot of positive exposure to Greenwood-based Viking Range.

That’s about the extent of the good news, though. The Greenwood Commonwealth newspaper reported in its Friday edition that Viking has laid off 30 more workers in an effort to cut costs. The company has been hit pretty hard by the downturn in new housing construction.

Overall, the Commonwealth reports, Viking has cut 327 jobs, or about 23 percent of its total workforce, since April 2008. This will add to Leflore County’s already bleak unemployment situation. In August, the latest month for which figures are available, 12.2 percent of the county’s population did not hold a job.

For the full story, click here.

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