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United Furniture Industries owner reportedly has vanished and is staying silent after laying off 2,700 staffers right before Thanksgiving

Business Insider India logo Business Insider India 02-12-2022 Bethany Biron
  • United Furniture Industries founder David Belford has remained silent and unreachable since firing 2,700 employees last week.
  • Belford allegedly shut down a plan to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy days before the layoffs, the New York Post reported.

Just days after United Furniture Industries laid off 2,700 employees without severance or benefits, the owner of the company has reportedly disappeared.

David Belford — a wealthy Ohio businessman who also owns companies including Solstice Sleep Products and Stage Capital — has not spoken publicly and has been unreachable since the layoffs, and some speculate he may have left the country, according to sources speaking to the New York Post.

His silence comes as staffers seek legal action against the Mississippi-based company after they were notified of terminations through texts and emails just two days before Thanksgiving. In the messages, sent just before midnight, UFI said it was laying off "all employees" due to "unforeseen business circumstances."

In a subsequent email, the staffers — who worked at UFI facilities in California, Mississippi, and North Carolina — were notified that "all benefits will be terminated immediately without provision of COBRA," leaving them without health insurance.

Former employee Toria Neal filed a class-action lawsuit against UFI last week, claiming the furniture company violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act by failing to provide the required 60 days written notice of a future closure.

Philip Hearn, an attorney working on behalf of fired employees in Mississippi, told the Post that Belford is rumored to have fled to Paris and allegedly shut down a plan to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection two days before the layoffs.

"Belford said, 'We are not going forward with a Chapter 11,'" Hearn told the New York Post. "It sounds like the management team came up with a plan to save the company and Belford said, 'That's a wrap — not doing it.'"

Belford — as well as UFI's Director of Merchandising and Marketing Greg Morgan and Human Resources Director Helen Benefield — did not immediately respond to Insider's request to comment.

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