Continental Express Hits Bumpy Road

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, May. 4, 2009 12:00 am  

Ralph Bradbury, right, the former president of Continental Express Inc., and Pete Campbell, the former executive vice president of CEI, were the only two executives retained by the Celadon Group Inc., which bought the truckload, intermodal and brokerage b

Continental Express Inc., which was one of Arkansas’ largest private companies, struggled to pay its bills just before it was sold in December, according to lawsuits filed against the Little Rock trucking company.  

Several of its former employees also have sued Continental, claiming they didn’t receive their vacation pay or severance pay after the truckload, intermodal and brokerage business was sold on Dec. 4 to Celadon Group Inc. of Indianapolis for $24.1 million.

Continental’s owner, Ed Harvey, also has been in sued in U.S. District Court for not repaying a $1.3 million loan that he took out in December and that was due in March.

Adding more to Continental’s troubles is a seven-figure judgment it was hit with in October over an accident involving one of its drivers.

Ralph Bradbury, Continental’s former president, declined to comment. Bradbury and Pete Campbell, who was Continental’s executive vice president, are the only two administrative officers who are now working for Celadon. Harvey didn’t return a call for comment.

Lane Kidd, the president of the Arkansas Trucking Association, said he didn’t know what caused problems for Continental.

But overall, “the trucking industry has been on a gradual slide since the third or fourth quarter of 2007,” Kidd said. “2008 was a very slow year for all sectors of the trucking industry. And you began to see balance sheets becoming more leveraged, except for those companies that really have some strong cash reserves. A buyer’s market ensued.”

In 2008, 3,065 trucking companies with five or more trucks went out of business, which was up 54.4 percent from 2007, according to the American Trucking Associations of Arlington, Va.

Celadon spokesman Craig Koven said he wasn’t sure when Continental contacted Celadon about selling the company.

“When we go in and get involved with a company, they’re usually in some kind of financial trouble and the owner or the management is looking to get out of the business altogether,” Koven said.

On Dec. 4, Celadon bought Continental’s assets, but not its employees, Koven said.

“So employees, any kind of liabilities that the company [has], those are things we don’t take on,” he said.

Some of Continental’s employees weren’t happy with the purchase.



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