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Crane Cams shuts doors after 56 years

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Post Fri Feb 27, 2009 1:26 am

Posts: 1538
Crane Cams shuts down, workers laid off & no prior warning, after 56 years in biz.

Harvey Crane formed Crane Engineering on January 1, 1953. Later as he expanded the cam business, the name was changed to his LAST NAME CRANE + CAMS, Inc. This firm became the best known in the field of racing camshafts in the late 1960's. In 1989 the ESOT (employee owned) firm's executive committee of 10 (from a total of more than 250 employee owners) decided they could save money by "letting Harvey go". They FIRED HIM on Tuesday afternoon, January 24, 1989! At that time he only owned 17% of the company stock shares, so there was nothing he could do to save his position as the technological leader of the company that still bears his name. As of September, 2007 there was only 1 of the 10 left at Crane.

Some more history on Crane Cams. According to what I was told by former managers, the long downhill path in the company's fortunes began with actions on the part of Harvey Crane. He led the company to heavily invest in a "hot vapor cycle" engine program originated by Smokey Yunich. After several million dollars were wasted, Smokey's scam was uncovered and Harvey had to take a fall. As a graduate engineer, Harvey probably should have known better - that the laws of thermodynamics can't be violated. The company tried to sue Smokey, but due to a poorly worded contract, lost the case. Money that should have been spent on new equipment and real product R&D had been wasted and this set off a chain of events.

In the mid 1990's Crane acquired Camshaft Machine and almost doubled in size to a peak of about $80 million annual sales. Camshaft Machine was heavily oriented towards the very cost conscious OE market. Crane terribly mismanaged the acquisition and only two years later had to fire sale what was left to Federal Mogul. Federal Mogul then turned around and sued Crane for misrepresentation. In all at least $12 million was lost and Crane's fate was sealed. Several more bad years led to the departure of much of the talented R&D staff in 2001. Mikronite acquired what was left of Crane in 2006 and made an honest effort to turn it around. But they underestimated the magnitude of the investment that would be required to update antiquated equipment and years of neglected R&D. By 2008 they were having serious cash flow problems.
Now the lights are literally out at Crane. Florida Power & Light pulled the plug this morning. Rumor has it that Wachovia Bank is pushing for liquidation and has someone on-site making up a list of assets.

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