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Robert Trigaux

Domino theory? Auto supplier Lear Corp. joins industry ranks in Chapter 11

Leartampaselimmerchant Wake up and good morning. Well, it's official. U.S. auto parts maker Lear Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday, a day after setting out plans to restructure its $3.6 billion debt burden under a proposed deal with creditors.

Not that a Chapter 11 filing helps any of the Tampa Bay area workers at Lear's facility at 5100 W Waters Ave. They assemble electronic components and systems for auto interiors, but have known long before Chrysler and GM opted for bankruptcy that their jobs are being eliminated locally. Lear's moving the the plant and most of the assembly line components to a new plant in Mexico.

(Show above in a photo taken outside the Tampa facility last fall are -- clockwise from top left -- machine operators Betsaida Valentin, Jean Muller, Nedra Banks and Elizabeth Rondon, maintenance tech Eric Franks and control tech and UAW Local 2405 chief Richard Neal. Photo courtesy of Selim Merchant.)

Lear's bankruptcy is a reminder that the extraordinary hits to the U.S. auto industry will not only be reflected in the Florida economy in shrinking numbers of auto dealerships. Florida does have auto supplier jobs, too, although they are dwindling quickly.

Lear now says its bankruptcy plan -- the largest in a string of failures of auto parts suppliers -- was supported by about 68 percent in principal amount of its secured lenders and more than 50 percent in principal amount of its bondholders, says Reuters.

Bobrossiterceolearcorp "We intend to proceed on an expedited basis and expect to submit the plan to the Bankruptcy Court within 60 days," Lear Chief Executive Bob Rossiter (shown in photo) said in a statement. Here is Lear's press release. And here is Lear's letter, dated July 7, to its retirees.

Added Rossiter: "Our goal is to emerge from this process quickly and with an appropriate capital structure to support our long-term business objectives as a leading global competitor with the financial flexibility to build on our strengths and take advantage of future growth opportunities."

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:25am]


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