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American Seating says goodbye to the ballpark

Company intends to sell architectural fixed seating business to Irwin Seating; will focus on transportation seating.

January 13, 2017
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American Seating announced its intentions to exit the fixed seating market, which includes seating for outdoor sports stadiums, auditorium and lecture halls, and performing arts theaters, earlier this month.

The company said it signed a letter of intent to sell its architectural fixed seating business to one of its competitors in the industry, Irwin Seating.

The transaction is expected to close in March, pending due diligence. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

In the news release issued by the company, American Seating said it intends to focus its efforts entirely on the transportation seating market, where it said it is “already a recognized leader” and sees “growth opportunities.”

“The architectural fixed seating segment of our business was very seasonal in nature, particularly outdoor sports and higher education seating projects, and this presented an increasing number of operational challenges, which led us to the decision to sell this portion of our business,” said Tom Bush, president and COO at American Seating. “At the same time, we have strong momentum in our transportation seating business and expect to benefit from the ability to focus our time, resources and talent in this market.”

Bush declined to speak with the Business Journal about the changes at American Seating, including what is happening with the company’s office furniture group (which was not included in the sale) or the company’s future plans.

American Seating appears to be undergoing some big changes, however. This recent news follows the company’s announcement at the end of December that it sold its 165,000-square-foot facility at 601 Seventh St. NW to Ferris Coffee & Nut Company.

“American Seating is planning to move production that is currently happening at the (Seventh Street) location to our Broadway Avenue facility. We have relocated all of our metal fabrication, weld and finishing operations in the Broadway production facility over the past four years, and we believe that having our team together in a single location will provide a number of operational efficiencies and is the best solution for the company at this time,” Bush said in an emailed statement to the Business Journal.

While American Seating is exiting the architectural fixed seating business, Irwin Seating said it’s a perfect complement to its business, which is poised for growth this year in many of its market segments.

Irwin Seating concentrates 100 percent on fixed public seating, which includes seating for stadiums, auditoriums, movie theaters, performing arts centers and places of worship.

“It’s our bread and butter and has been for 110 years,” said Bruce Cohen, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Irwin Seating Company.

Cohen said the acquisition provides Irwin Seating with “additional opportunities for us in the marketplace, it potentially provides some additional product solutions and potentially provides for some additional people in corresponding expertise. It’s certainly additive for us.”

He said the company is poised for growth in the year ahead.

“We are viewing 2017 as a year of growth for the corporation on many fronts and in many markets,” he said. “We look forward to this transaction closing in March and being another pillar of that growth for us.”

He also said more acquisitions are likely for the company this year.

The additional products and people resulting from the acquisition will be housed in Irwin Seating’s headquarters and chair manufacturing facility in Walker.

American Seating announced 80 layoffs would occur as a result of the sale but said some of those employees may find jobs at Irwin Seating.

“We are hiring today in general, and we are in the process of working with American Seating as part of that initiative,” Cohen said.

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