LINK- BELT is seeking new distributors in southeast states of the USA after the collapse of its top two distributors. Consolidated Equipment Companies (CEC) and its subsidiaries, the crane distributors Con-Equip and Owsley, filed for bankruptcy on 8 June.

Con-Equip was the Link-Belt distributor for southeast Texas, including Houston, and southern Louisiana, while Owsley covered Georgia and the Carolinas. They were ranked as Link-Belt’s top two distributors.

The division that covered Texas and south Louisiana – the original Con-Equip distribution agreement – is to be liquidated. The six branches have all been closed and the business is being wound up from its Houston head office. So far, more than half of the $50m stock inventory has been sold. The stock includes excavators as well as cranes, as 50% of Con-Equip’s business was in the dirt business.

Attempts were made to sell Owsley as a going concern until 22 October. It was a much smaller business and 90% cranes. Some $25m of stock, mostly cranes, is now being cleared.

Link-Belt has since signed a new distributor for Louisiana and Arkansas, Scott Truck & Tractor, which until November 2000 had been the distributor for northern Louisiana. A minimum of three more distributors will be signed to fill the spaces left behind by the collapse of Con-Equip.

CEC was formed in May 1999 through the acquisition of Con-Equip and Con-Equipment by a group of private equity investors comprising the Texas Growth Fund, Sanders Morris Mundy and Heller Equity Capital Corporation. CEC acquired Owsley last year and sought expansion by moving from pure distribution into the rent-to-rent market. At the same time as the Owsley acquisition, it also bought Reco, the Louisiana distributor, but this was later folded into Con-Equip. Until May 2000 CEC was headed by George Nevins.

Through the Owsley acquisition CEC also acted for Demag, National Crane, and Manitex. The CEC companies, collectively a $150m business, also represented other equipment manufacturers such as LBX, Hyundai, Moxy, Hamm, Atlas ERS, Barko and Kohler Company.