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Bus maker DesignLine files for bankruptcy protection

By Andrew Dunn and Rick Rothacker
adunn@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte bus maker DesignLine filed for bankruptcy protection this week, federal court documents show, following several weeks of furloughs and layoffs.

The company featured several high-profile investors and once employed former Mayor Anthony Foxx, who became the U.S. transportation secretary in July. It had been looking to find the financing to continue its operations as it dealt with past-due invoices from clients.

The bankruptcy filing lists assets of $14 million and debts of $37.5 million. The company’s largest creditor is New Jersey Transit, which claims $3.6 million in payments for buses it has not received, the documents show. A New Jersey Transit spokesman declined to comment.

Prominent Charlotte businessman and DesignLine investor Cameron Harris also has an $846,000 claim.

“It looks like they didn’t sell enough buses, and perhaps the buses they sold weren’t as good as we thought they were,” Harris told the Observer.

He said he has talked with his attorney but couldn’t comment on what he will do next.

Harris said he became an investor four or five years ago through U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Buster Glosson, who brought the company to Charlotte with his son, Brad, in 2006. It had been based in New Zealand.

A company registered to the same address as a home owned by Buster Glosson is owed $2.9 million, according to the filing. DesignLine disputes the claim.

Former N.C. Gov. Jim Martin also said he was an investor in the company but didn’t know anything about the bankruptcy filing.

He said he was previously on the board of the company but stepped down when new management took over.

DesignLine also owed about $181,000 to Metrolina Steel, a Charlotte company that filed for bankruptcy protection itself earlier this week.

A DesignLine spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. CEO Joseph Smith, who has led the company since last year, could not be reached for comment.

As of this spring, DesignLine employed about 250 at its headquarters and factory off Westinghouse Boulevard.

Late last month, DesignLine announced a two-week shut-down of operations and furloughed its workers for the duration. An unknown number of workers were laid off last week.

Foxx, who made $88,000 a year as deputy general counsel at DesignLine, resigned when he became transportation secretary. Researcher Maria David contributed.

Dunn: 704-358-5235 Twitter: @andrew_dunn
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