Volume 12, Issue 2 - March/April 2008
|FTI’s Closure No Sudden Downturn
An Exclusive Interview With CEO Don Wheeler
The closing of Film Technologies International Inc. (FTI) in St. Petersburg, Fla., has left a wake of distributors, dealers and employees in need of suppliers and/or employment. It has also left many in the industry scratching their heads—wondering how a longtime supplier could disappear so quickly.
Company officials confirmed that Wednesday, January 26, was the manufacturer’s last day of operations. In an exclusive interview with Window Film magazine, FTI’s chief executive officer, Don Wheeler, said that the company’s closure was due to a long decline.
WF: An unfortunate situation such as this will often offer up a sort of “moral” or anecdote. This is certainly no time for ‘What would I have done differently?’ but would you be willing to share some of the factors leading to FTI’s closure for the benefit of the
Another factor, that was more unique to us, was that the company engaged in an expansion and invested in plant equipment, and did so with the addition of debt in bank loans that, when added to the company’s balance sheet, resulted in a capital structure that was top heavy with debt. If there’s a moral or an admission that one would give to any company, not just to the window film industry, it would be to seek to avoid getting overly leveraged in terms of your capital structure. And that certainly played a part in our situation.
The third thing I would add, and to be honest, is that the consistency of the company’s product quality was undoubtedly sub-standard and contributed … to an erosion of confidence on the part of the company’s customers. And that affected our business as well.
WF: I think it’s safe to say many manufacturers face these issues at one time or
WF: Other manufacturers are obviously going to scramble to pick up the remains, in the way of market share …
WF: Obviously FTI would have preferred to be acquired, rather than to cease
WF: Several companies have indicated that they considered a buy-out. One that has chosen to come forward with a press release is
WF: An FTI employee has indicated that the withdrawal of Hanita’s offer ultimately led to FTI’s immediate downfall; others believe this was a more gradual decline and Hanita happened to represent FTI’s last effort to avoid closing. Are you able to say which is
It was a longer term evolution.
WF: What would you say, if you’re able to say, made the closure happen so abruptly? Was it just a matter of trying every avenue and, when the final avenue didn’t happen, it was just time and you had to pull the
WF: With the window film market expanding as it is in many foreign markets, do you feel domestic manufacturers should be ramping up their distribution efforts overseas as a matter of
WF: The domestic market remains to be the largest for window film. Do you foresee that
If you take a ten-year horizon, I still think this will be the largest market, but China is going to overtake the U.S. in automobile production and sales, probably in that time period, and the construction boom going on there is well documented. Obviously the standards of living are such that are not anywhere near comparable to those here, so how that works into the equation with window film, I don’t know. But it is out there on the horizon and I think any manufacturer that’s to survive has to be pretty aggressive about setting up operations and establishing distribution in those markets.
WF: You have warned about over leveraging a company with borrowed money. There have been many cases in which a bank suddenly ‘called the note,’ causing a company to go under. Was that in any way the case with
WF: We appreciate your openness. I’m sure there is a lot for others to learn from this unfortunate situation and set of
WF: We truly appreciate your time and willingness to share. Our hearts go out to everyone