Corporate closure puts 23 Aspen workers out of jobs
October 18, 2015
About 30 employees of a Colorado retailer of high-end home technology, including 23 at its Aspen location, are out of work after the company abruptly closed Thursday.
Employees said they won't get paid or receive Cobra insurance benefits.
"Nobody saw this coming," said Andrew Nettleton, a technology adviser for Via International, which had an Aspen office and showroom at Obermeyer Place and operated locations throughout the West as well as in Hawaii.
Nettleton, a middle school football coach who lives in Aspen with his wife and children, said he's out of a six-figure commission and other benefits.
"We found out Wednesday morning at 9. They said, 'Leave your key, leave your computer,'" he said. "Last night, my wife and I were wondering how we're going to pay our mortgage."
On Friday at the Aspen location, David Raife, who founded Paragon Technology Group, was busy trying to sort out the situation. In August 2013, he sold Paragon to Via International as part of a merger with five other home-technology firms.
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"We had a great business plan, but it wasn't executed well," he said, noting that 340 employees were let go companywide.
Raife said he hopes to rehire as many local employees who will join to start a new Aspen company with the same mission.
"It was awful yesterday," he said. "It was the 19th anniversary of my starting this company, and I had to close it and let everybody down."
The site said that Via International was forced into receivership — which is a court-ordered action in which an entity's assets and finances are frozen — after its senior lender took action in a state court in Colorado.
Raife said his goal is to buy the Paragon brand out of receivership.
"We will take care of every employee, client," he said.
He also expressed confidence that his new venture will succeed.
"The corporate infrastructure bogged down our ability to do business on a daily basis," he said.
Said Nettleton, "There were some very bright people doing some great things for this company. And now they don't have a job. And after the merger, promises were made, and we drank the Kool-Aid."
Via International built home theaters for Aspen's wealthy sect. Systems range from $10,000 for a media room to a project as expensive as $3 million. Homes at Red Mountain and Starwood kept the company busy, Raife said.
The Aspen business did well, Nettleton and Raife said, but the company failed to get new financing to stay afloat.
"Colorado wasn't the problem," Nettleton said.
The lavish Obermeyer Place showroom was a popular gathering spot for Super Bowl parties, charity functions and business networking events.
"It was the best movie theater in town," Nettleton said. "I had my kids' birthday parties there. And we had a fundraiser for the high school football team. I can't say how many Realtors would use the space for some of their functions."
Raife, who owns the Obermeyer space with another partner through a limited liability company, said the receiver will pay rent on the property until the dispute is settled.