March 22, 2023
Universal Douglas Announces Sudden Closure
Employees hit with immediate layoffs. Made-to-order backlog will go unfulfilled.
Yesterday, the factories at Universal Douglas were shipping products while salespeople were writing more orders. Today, the company is abruptly pulling the plug on what has been one of the more important lighting brands dating back to the days when fluorescent ballasts were a part of almost every commercial lighting project.
The brands formerly known as Universal Lighting Technologies (ULT) and Douglas Lighting Controls and now known as Universal Douglas announced today that it is shutting down operations. Most employees were notified that they would be out of jobs immediately, while others are being kept on board to help wind down operations over the next two to four months. All facilities will cease operations by July.
$100 Million in revenues. Over 1000 employees.
The LinkedIn profile of Universal Douglas CEO, Paul Tudor, cites that Universal Douglas has revenues of $100 million and operates a manufacturing facility in Mexico, R&D facilities in Alabama and British Columbia, and employs 1,000+ staff across North America.
The company stated that it is “committed to filling as many outstanding customer orders as possible” which may resonate with customers – yet only orders that can be fulfilled from existing warehouse inventory will be shipped. This means that any customer expecting shipments of any made-to-order lighting or lighting controls products will need to scramble for alternate solutions.
Private Equity Owner, Atar Capital
It has been two years since the California private equity firm Atar Capital acquired Universal Lighting Technologies and Douglas Lighting Controls from Panasonic Corporation. While financial terms were not disclosed, there is certainly value in the brand that is making employees and other lighting people wonder why the closure is occurring so abruptly and without a possible acquisition that could have retained continuity and value.
In today’s letter that went to distributor customers, the company described many goals “including maximizing recovery value on asset sales.” For a company that is shutting down, getting good ROI on remaining assets is important, but it seemed peculiar to put a self-serving goal like that into a letter to a distributor who may be left with a lighting mess to fix after Universal Douglas’ abrupt disappearing act.
The company owns the Huntsville, Alabama facility which is home base to many of the engineering and operations teams.
We spoke to an Atar Capital person today at 8:03am PDT who identified herself only as “Jo” and she was not cooperative in connecting us with anyone who could answer our questions about Universal Douglas.