BATON ROUGE, La. — East West Copolymer L.L.C., one of three domestic sources of emulsion styrene-butadiene rubber (ESBR), has ceased operations and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The company, which began life as the Copolymer Corp. in 1943, closed its doors March 31 after operating at the same Baton Rouge plant for 74 years. The company is seeking court authority to liquidate its assets.
Approximately 110 employees were laid off, according to Mike Matthews, business manager for International Union of Operating Engineers Local 216, which organized workers at the East West facility. A maintenance crew will be on site for the next several weeks, performing the necessary shutdown operations such as emptying tanks and pipes, Mr. Matthews said.
In its petition, filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, East West Copolymer listed assets of $1 million to $10 million and liabilities of $10 million to $50 million, including $13.5 million owed to Main Street Capital Corp.
The court has scheduled a hearing April 12 before Judge Douglas Dodd to address several motions, including the maintenance of existing bank accounts, authorization for employment of restructuring officers and attorneys, extension of time to file schedules and statements, and authority to approve compensation and payment to insiders.
East West Copolymers is one of two petitioners — along with Lion Elastomers L.L.C. of Port Neches, Texas —that have been seeking antidumping relief from certain emulsion styrene-butadiene rubber imports from Poland, Mexico and South Korea.
Lion and East-West petitioned the International Trade Commission last July, stating that emulsion SBR is being sold in the U.S. at less than fair value, causing material injury to U.S. emulsion SBR manufacturers.
The case is still being investigated. The ITC determined preliminarily last September that evidence of material injury exists against the U.S. emulsion styrene-butadiene rubber industry because of the ESBR imports.
Goodyear also makes ESBR.
East West Copolymer has existed under that name only since 2014, when an investors group agreed to buy the business — operating at that time as Lion Copolymer and on the verge of closing — and reopen it under the new name.
The investors group was led by Greg Nelson, CEO of Lion Copolymer for six years starting in 2008, and included Horizons Up Consulting and Alto Cheung of China, along with seven other former managers at the Baton Rouge plant.
The business was known as DSM Copolymer from 1989 to 2005, when it became Lion Copolymer.
The plant was designed and built by the U.S. Government during World War II and played a role in the development and advancement in synthetic rubber technology.
Story based on reporting by Miles Moore, Senior Washington reporter, and Tire Business staff.