February 29, 2012

Wheels Falling Off The Maclaren?

Dude, this is not sounding good.

While trying to find out what's been going on with Maclaren USA and its bankruptcy liquidation, I've been hearing from customers and retailers who deal with them, and current and former Mac employees, some who were laid off, and some who quit.

I think we can rest assured, unfortunately, that all is not well on their end.

I'm not going to relay the details, but there are multiple, similar-sounding accounts of managerial chaos, extremely high turnover, sudden layoffs, and eye-popping customer service disasters. And current Maclaren owner Farzad Rastegar figures unfavorably in almost every one of them.

On the specific issues surrounding the bankruptcy, I'm told that the company "restructured all the time," almost as a management strategy. New corporate entities were springing up regularly. One thing seems clear, though, that after the creation of Maclaren NA in late 2010, Maclaren USA became essentially a zombie company that nobody wanted to talk about. On the company's computer network and IT system, USA was closed off, with Rastegar retaining the only login.

While such segregation makes a certain amount of sense from the standpoint of corporate law, and are particularly important to demonstrating that the corporate entities are indeed separate, it also apparently caused a great deal of stress and confusion on Maclaren's operations last year. And it also begs the question of why the company was run this way. And what was Rastegar's purpose for saddling Mac USA with massive, internally generated debt [the $14 million to Maclaren HK, in particular]; and then locking it up and starving it for a year-plus before liquidating it when no one was watching.

As for Hong Kong, basically every employee I've spoken to so far identified Maclaren HK Ltd as the functioning headquarters of the company.

Which, I guess all of this amazes me because of how far removed it feels from my own perception of the Maclaren brand. As a happy-go-lucky Mac pusher for years now, I have always somehow imagined the company as a solid, slightly fashionable, British institution. Only it turns out to be an increasingly dubious offshore shitstorm. Which is really kind of depressing.

3 Comments

I blame Sex and the City...

Sounds like things are going down the tubes, perhaps quickly here at the end. Like you, I have pushed our Maclaren around happily. I am pissed that the company's design is going to be lost. I can't think of another stroller/accessory manufacturer that offers relatively cheap, solid-designed products that I would want to purchase.
Even their plastic didn't feel plastic-y, if that makes any sense...

I was married without kids on the Upper West side in the early 2000s when there were blue MacLarens parked outside every restaurant. We swore we would never own one. A few years later we made a similar pact with respect to Bugaboos. The Bugaboo pact we were able to keep: we found an alternative that was cheaper yet more capable and better suited for our needs. But when the first kid shared a nanny with the neighbor's kid and we needed a side-by-side stroller that fit through the door to our building, we got a MacLaren. A few months later we got the first of two MacLaren Triumphs that served us well. The MacLaren line (particularly the smaller/lighter models) simply can't be beat. It's hard to imagine that when the dust settles, some entity will continue to make and market these strollers.

It's interesting to read these reports because they make it seem like there were/are other major issues with the company beyond what we all assumed to be an attempt to minimize the exposure to the lawsuits. Or maybe all the gripes about management style just come to the surface because of other stresses. Or maybe the costs associated with the lawsuits were actually already taking a toll.

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