Although Kevin Lamar, CEO and founder of now-defunct Lamar Fitness, and much of his staff have found a home at Star Trac's newly beefed-up consumer division, former retailers of the Lamar company brands have so far been left scrambling.
That's partly because Wells Fargo's acquisition of the former Lamar company in early September (click here for a Sept. 6, 2007, SNEWS® story, "Accounting malpractices by CFO forces Lamar Fitness to suspend operations") means the bank now owns and has under lock and key all equipment parts, and service and warranty records, as well as all databases and retailer lists.
Kevin Lamar, now general manager of Star Trac's consumer division, is also helpless, he told SNEWS®. Although Star Trac reportedly is one of several with a bid in with Wells Fargo to buy the assets, Wells Fargo has not taken any action. Wells is reportedly asking in excess of $2 million, but has declined to discuss details with the media.
"Wells Fargo won't let me near the parts," Lamar said. "Everything is locked up in our former warehouse.
"If they'd accept our bid, we'd get those parts out tomorrow," he added.
Retailers across the country have reported to SNEWS® they have not heard any news about what they should do about any current parts or service issues or what they should do down the road as they surface. But, Lamar said, the lack of communication is because he has no database to broadcast emails or letters to his former company's customers.
"Hopefully, Wells Fargo will resolve that soon," Craig Kirsch, owner of Two Wheeler Dealer Cycle & Fitness in South Dakota, wrote SNEWS® in an email. "Like other Lamar dealers, we are encountering some parts issues that need to be taken care of. We had very good luck with the Lamar line, and had promoted it heavily, so we remain hopeful that it can be perpetuated in some fashion."
Meanwhile, he and others have said they feel stranded.
"As of right now, we are still in limbo," Dan McEnaney, co-owner of Cape Cod Fitness in Massachusetts, told SNEWS®. "I am not sure what I will do if, and when I do need parts for the many Lamar products we have sold."
Tim Bruce with MGL Fitness in Wisconsin, which had been planning to increase its business with the Lamar company this year, told SNEWS® the company has heard "not a word."
"We're going to have parts and warranty needs," Bruce said. "It's like, 'Who am I going to contact?' We're between a rock and a hard place."
Wrote Todd Prace, owner of retailer Fitness Beast in Henderson, Nev., in the SNEWS® Forum, "As a Lamar dealer, and having product in stock and out in the field we must now worry about parts needs. What is going to happen when the dust truly settles, what are you going to do with all the parts and products, for the dealers who might need these parts in the future?"
Neither Lamar nor his new employer, Star Trac, wants to leave the dealers stranded, Lamar said. But with the bank procrastinating on a sale and parts and information behind locked doors, everybody is in a wait-and-see mode. Star Trac was not available for comment.
"There's no way we'd walk away from a customer," Lamar said. "Even if Star Trac doesn't get the assets, I'll work with whomever does get it to make sure people get their parts. It's only the right thing to do for the customers."
Although same retailers have said they may be wary of partnering again under the new Star Trac flag if they are left in limbo, Kirsch is confident things will settle well.
"We're taking a hard look at Star Trac," Kirsch said. "Former Lamar team members were very good to us over the years, so I would enjoy partnering with them again. We also have several other excellent fitness suppliers, so our stores will be fine. We'll work our way through this situation one way or another."
SNEWS® View: We are confident the parties involved will do the right thing -- especially since burning bridges in such a small industry is not usually a harbinger of good business in the future. The problem, of course, at this point lies with Wells Fargo, which has continued to rebuff bids, interest and solutions, while just seemingly sitting on the problem. The best answer would be if the bank finalized a sale and let everyone get one with their lives and business.