Less than three months after announcing the closure of all three Vann’s stores in western Montana, the chief executive officer of Vann’s Acquisition LLC has left the company.
Greg Regelbrugge said Tuesday he left the company for personal reasons and is now working in Seattle.
“I’ve accepted another position,” he said. “I’m in Seattle now as we speak. The decision was made for (the family).”
Regelbrugge declined to comment further on his departure.
A holding company for the Florida-based global conglomerate Khaledi Group bought the bankrupt Vann’s in a $4.5 million deal last year.
In November, Regelbrugge came on as CEO and part owner of the newly named Vann’s Acquisition LLC.
“He decided to leave for personal reasons. He also had a career opportunity. Really, it’s that simple and that quick,” said Alan Huxtable, vice president of business development and commercial director for the Khaledi Group’s HK Global Trading Ltd. “The plan hasn’t changed, we’re right now moving forward with the process of consolidating the commercial offerings back to several locations.”
Regelbrugge announced in April that the Missoula and Hamilton Vann’s stores were closing after lease negotiations failed with the buildings’ owner, Pete Vann.
Then came an announcement in late May that the Kalispell store was also closing.
Regelbrugge’s plan was to relocate the company’s headquarters to Bozeman and focus on the Bozeman and Billings markets.
A longtime player in the electronics industry, Regelbrugge was a part owner of Vann’s Acquisition LLC, the new name for the Vann’s electronics and appliance store chain founded in Missoula by Pete Vann in 1961.
Vann’s eventually expanded to include locations in Hamilton, Kalispell, Helena, Bozeman and Billings. It became an employee-owned company in 2003.
The company also included an online store and two sister companies, the ON Store in Southgate Mall and the now-defunct BigSkyCountry.com.
Last June, Vann’s CEO George Manlove departed and Vann’s filed for bankruptcy in August.
It was announced in September that all Vann’s stores would closed, but that was before Khaledi made an offer to buy the company. The deal was approved in November by a bankruptcy judge.
The $4.5 million sale price covered just over half of what Vann’s owed its creditors.
Many of Vann’s 100-plus employees were retained by Regelbrugge.
But a series of Vann’s employees were laid off in December, in what Regelbrugge called a necessary step to help get the company back on track.
Another 15 employees lost their jobs when the Missoula and Hamilton stores closed this spring.
Regelbrugge is no longer an owner of the company.
Despite the continued setbacks, the management and owners remain committed to growing its stores in the Bozeman and Billings markets, Huxtable said Tuesday.
“We have to stabilize the existing buildings and put (the company) back onto stable ground. Then, we want to re-enter markets in Missoula and Kalispell, or perhaps other locations,” Huxtable said.
The owners of the company are closely involved in the process and are communicating daily with the “seasoned managers” currently running the stores, Huxtable said.
The ON Store in Southgate Mall remains open. A new ON Store is being built inside the Bozeman Vann’s store, Huxtable said.
Discussions are continuing on a plan to expand the ON Store concept into a chain of Khaledi-owned HK Global duty-free stores along the U.S.-Mexico border, Huxtable said.
A national search to find Regelbrugge’s replacement is under way.
“We want to get a very competent, highly qualified senior manager to run the company,” Huxtable said. “In the meantime, it’s getting all the support necessary from the senior management and ownership.”