Deal pending on sale of Whirlpool plant

by The City Wire staff ( 8 views 

There is some uncertainty about a deal being final, but Whirlpool Corp. officials say they have sold the more than 2 million square-foot plant in Fort Smith, but the new buyer is not a company that will directly bring production and jobs back to the plant.

Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool announced in October 2011 announced it would close its refrigeration production plant in Fort Smith. The move resulted in about 1,000 lost jobs when the plant closed in June. However, Whirlpool, which employed more than 4,500 at the Fort Smith plant in 2006, moved production out of the plant for several years prior to the closing.

According to Whirlpool, Concord, Ontario-based Infinity Asset Solutions has purchased the building. Infinity notes on its website that the company “focuses on the disposition of assets for private and public companies, insolvency and financial institutions, as well as leasing companies.”

However, Tim Allen, chief operating officer for the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, says Infinity is interested in the building, but the deal is not final.

“That is not true,” Allen said when told that Whirlpool issued a statement saying the building was purchased by Infinity. “That building has not been sold. We have an interested party … but it’s under contract and they are doing their due diligence on the building and the community.”

Allen said the process to complete the deal could take between four and six weeks, but he is hopeful for “a good outcome by the end of the year.”

“We’re excited that someone like this company is considering investing in Fort Smith. They see a great asset in Fort Smith and this building, and they wouldn’t be making this investment if they didn’t,” Allen said.

And although a deal with Infinity wouldn't immediately return production and jobs to the plant, it is a move forward, Allen explained. He also said if Infinity buys the large facility it will provide more options with respect to potential buyers.

Two sources familiar with efforts to sell the Whirlpool building have told The City Wire that global appliance maker LG was interested in acquiring the large Whirlpool facility but Whirlpool officials quashed that effort. Based in South Korea and employing more than 82,000 worldwide, LG manufactures televisions, refrigerators, computer products and a wide variety of consumer and commercial electronics and appliances.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe recently expressed his frustration with Whirlpool in the effort by state officials to market the more than 2 million square foot plant. Beebe said state officials and chamber and city officials in Fort Smith are doing “everything we can” to find another tenant for the plant.

“Problem is, Whirlpool still owns it and doesn’t want it marketed to a competitor,” Beebe explained.

Allen declined to comment on whether LG had been interested in the plant.