Before soccer balls, there were circuit boards. Turns out, Tom Hicks hasn't been liked in England for quite a while now, since long before the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars' owner bought into the famed Liverpool football club. Dates back several years, back to when Hicks was the chairman and owner of circuit-board maker Viasystems, which, in September 2001, shuttered two manufacturing plants and laid off some 850 workers.
The plant closings aren't the issue. The problem is, those former workers say they were never given their promised severance pay -- a total of some $8 million, according to union reps. Says the leader of the charge in a media release earlier this week: "The workers at Viasystems have been treated abominably -- there's no question of that.” Which is why some 200 of those former Viasystems employees are going to court this week and next -- to collect their lost wages. Only if they get anything, it'll be pence on the pound: Reports the Evening Chronicle out of Newcastle: "The compensation victory is not worth the paper it’s written on. In a cruel twist for workers, the firm’s liquidators have revealed they’ll pocket just 3% of their payouts."
And, right or wrong, Hicks is the man getting the blame for all this.
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In today's Chronicle, a 33-year veteran of the company -- 68-year-old former chemist Selby Armstrong, now living off a government pension -- says he's bitter as 'ell toward the Rangers' owner.
"I loved the job and was close to retirement, so it came as a huge blow," he tells the paper, in a story not online but available on Nexis. "I feel very bitter that he is still able to buy into this country. The company has left so many people such as myself without money. He is obviously not short of cash to buy Liverpool."
Hicks is no longer chairman of the company, but it still has plentiful ties to Hicks and to Dallas. Jack D. Furst, a partner in Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst Incorporated (now HM Capital), sits on its board, as does HM Capital's J. Edward Herring. And the English still hold Hicks responsible, as he was chairman when the plants were closed seven years ago:
According to Tuesday's Chronicle story, union rep Tom Brennan said, “The situation remains disgusting. It’s time for Tom Hicks to cough up. It’s far too easy for companies to call in the administrators and not have to face up to their responsibilities to staff.” And today, the Chronicle ends its story with: "The Chronicle faxed a request to Mr Hicks at Liverpool FC asking for a quote about Viasystems. We have not been contacted with a comment." Sounds like Tom Hicks could use some baseball right about now. --Robert Wilonsky