Still Suffering from Recession

Published on January 13th, 2017

A longtime maker of high-end components for sailboats has severely scaled back operations as it searches for a new investor to rescue the financially troubled business and its 52 employees.

The situation at Hall Spars & Rigging became dire when a deal to sell the company to a new owner suddenly collapsed in late December, President and CEO Thomas Rossi said in an interview with the Providence Journal. The company had to shut down for the holiday season and is now operating with fewer than 10 employees, he said.

“It was very disappointing and very abrupt,” said Rossi. “I was forced … to tell people a week before Christmas that they are being furloughed.”

Hall, founded in 1980, is renowned for manufacturing composite parts, including masts, for high-performance sailboats, including America’s Cup yachts. It has grown to include locations in Holland and New Zealand, which are under separate management and are not affected by the situation in Bristol.

“Hall U.S. is in a different predicament. We are victims of the 2008 recession and the associated loss or drop in discretionary spending, which results in very little boat building being done in the U.S.,” Rossi said. Most of the European work is being done by our Holland facility and a lot of Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Rim work is being done in New Zealand.”

Rossi, a retired Navy commander who has held executive positions at Anteon Corp. in Middletown and Caton Connector Corp. in Kingston, was brought on board Hall Spars last July. His charge, he said, was essentially help “right the ship.” He succeeded Eric Hall, the company founder, who stayed on as chairman.

Since the company has developed expertise in fabricating strong, lightweight parts of carbon fiber, Hall has sought to diversify into other industries, such as aerospace, Rossi said.

“We changed course to not only support our marine customers, but growing our non-marine work,” Rossi said. “But that course change probably came too late. We hit some significant challenges.”

Rossi, however remains optimistic.

“Our hope and our efforts continue to be to recapitalize the company and to bring those employees and customers back,” Rossi said. “There’s definitely people, local and abroad, that are interested in Hall U.S. surviving and have expressed interest in buying.

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