Earlier this week, the Kansas City Business Journal broke the news that corporate buyer Bryan Tolles was part of the closing of Premier Surfaces and U.S. Marble, nationwide companies with over 1200 combined employees. Tolles is the co-founder of Oakland Standard, which held equity in both companies under a corporate entity called Clio Holdings.
The shuttering of Premier Surfaces was abrupt, and has left many of its 700 employees in dire circumstances.
“It hit me hard,” installer Ricky Thomas said. “I’m sitting here stuck, kids in the house I can’t take care of. My mom’s sick, I can’t take care of her.”
Premiere Surfaces employees reported the company told them in an email that, after nearly 20 years, the business was shutting down immediately. The workers claim the company is not offering any severance pay, back pay, or even COBRA medical coverage. Nearly 1,000 employees at the Alpharetta, Georgia facility suddenly lost their jobs during the holiday break.
“Just to be blindsided, I mean I have two little babies – a 20-month-old and a 5-month-old baby – and we have no coverage, now,” said commercial field manager Zack Goins. “I mean, there are people that have cancer that are no longer getting coverage because we were not provided COBRA.”
Ricky Thomas told 11 Alive that no one can reach anyone from the company, not even to retrieve documents to help employees apply for new jobs or help expedite state unemployment claims.
“It hit me hard,” Thomas said. “I’m sitting here stuck, kids in the house I can’t take care of. My mom’s sick, I can’t take care of her.”
Thomas said his supervisors and managers kept telling him he had a future with the business, and said he was about to receive a promotion.
“I would ask them, ‘Does this company have a future?’ And they would always say, ‘Yes, it does,’ and that’s when they would fill me up saying that I was going to have a career being a lead,” said Thomas.
Goins and other employees are seeking legal help to find out if the company violated U.S. labor laws including the federal “WARN Act,” which requires a company in most cases to notify employees 60-days ahead of mass layoffs.
The penalties can include up to 60 days of severance pay for each employee.
U.S. Marble, founded in 1967, also shuttered facilities in Johnson City, Tennessee and Remus, Michigan. The company grew from single small shop started by John Bishop to 165,000 square feet worth of manufacturing and distribution operations in Remus and Johnson City. The company reported it had between 201 and 500 employees.
“Personally I feel like it was a kick right in your rump,” said 15 year employee Willard Denman.
U.S. Marble worker Tristyn Sibley told Big Rapids News that employees at the company received an email Thursday stating they wouldn’t get paid on Friday, with no estimated timeline of when they would get their last paychecks.
“I promised my daughter I was going to take her to Chuck E. Cheese. Wednesday’s her birthday, well Tuesday’s her birthday, and I had to cancel that out.” said employee Ben Strand. “Now it’s more of a rush to find a job so I can make sure I don’t lose my cars, my house, got to feed the kids.”
Clio Holdings claims it is unable to fund payroll and accrued PTO.
Customers of the two closed companies have also been left in the dark. On Facebook, one customer said Premier Surfaces offered no notice of the decision, leaving him with unfinished work in his kitchen.
Clio Holdings, the parent company of both U.S. Marble and Premier Surfaces,
Bryan Tolles, the managing partner of Oakland Standard, which controls equity in Clio Holdings, writes on his website that he was “involved in nearly $3 billion in M&A value across 50+ acquisitions.” Tolles brags on his corporate site that his family has an au pair, a live-in nanny, to take care of his children.
Like Wall Street investor Paul Singer, recently reported by Tucker Carlson as having decimated outdoor retailer Cabela’s and its employees in Sidney, Nebraska, Tolles is an example of the type of behavior that gives capitalism a bad name.
Tolles’s investment firm has destroyed companies that business owners had worked decades to build. According to one source, Tolles was specifically involved in the downfall of Clio Holdings, having fired key employees from the companies it purchased. Tolles has not responded to efforts for comment.