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Published: Saturday, 6/13/2009

Maumee Stamping plant backers seek account of investment

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

The man who led efforts to revive Ford Motor Co.'s former parts-stamping plant in Maumee now concedes backers of the plan are "without feasible options" and are unable to pay outstanding bills.

Blaming turmoil within the U.S. auto industry, Keith Obey, president of Maumee Authority Stamping Inc., said in a letter sent to investors that he and other former Ford workers who led the effort have "exhausted every path toward success that we know of."

Ford, which three months ago had agreed to buy auto parts from the fledgling firm, advised Mr. Obey last week that it was withdrawing the offer because the firm appeared financially incapable of fulfilling the commitment, according to company correspondence given to employees.

Now, former Ford workers and others who invested in the ill-fated venture that failed to produce a single part, are demanding an accounting of the money they gave Maumee Authority Stamping in exchange for a promise of employment.

Mr. Obey said yesterday that $800,000 contributed by more than 50 people seeking jobs is safe in escrow accounts held in each individual's name in a bank in Michigan.

He could not recall the name of the bank, but added that the individuals involved have control of the funds.

Mr. Obey also declined to discuss the fate of money put up by another three dozen company employees who received shares of stock in exchange for investments of $16,000 each.

Maumee Authority Stamping was evicted last month from the former Ford plant for nonpayment of bills.

The plant is owned by 920 Illinois Ave. LLC, a private investment partnership.

In a letter Mr. Obey sent Wednesday to "fellow associates and shareholders" of the company, there was no mention of the investment money or how it would be returned.

Despite Mr. Obey's comments in the letter, yesterday he said, "I'm not giving up. I'm still seeking work from customers."

In the letter, he advised employee-investors that he would update them on the situation by July 15 and then included an

e-mail address where he could be contacted.

Mr. Obey wrote that he personally lost $200,000 in the venture, in addition to working for 34 months without pay.

Maumee Authority Stamping "has no current operations" and "is inactive," Mr. Obey wrote.

Although Mr. Obey insisted that the investment money is safe, employee-investors are worried.

"I am praying to God the money is still there," said Cindy McNamara, an unemployed worker who invested $16,000 in the firm in hopes of getting a job.

She said Mr. Obey has not responded to e-mails she and others sent asking about the money.

Ms. McNamara said she knows of a mother and son who invested a combined $32,000 and a husband and wife who put in a similar amount.

Some employee-investors received stock certificates but others did not, according to people who contributed.

The shares were not registered with the Ohio Division of Securities, said Dennis Ginty, a division spokesman.

Ohio laws do not require registration in all cases, but it is impossible to say if Maumee Authority Stamping was covered by exemptions in the law without knowing its exact circumstances, Mr. Ginty said.

Mr. Obey said the company has complied with all state laws.

Jerry Barton, a Sylvania lawyer who helped set up the firm, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Job-seekers, who were required to invest at least $16,000 each, packed conference rooms last year during a series of meetings to hear presentations about investing in the newly formed company.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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