Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc. has completed the sale of 14-year-old Hart Housing Group, a modular home builder in Wakarusa, Ind., to Maryville, Tenn.-based Clayton Homes, Forest River President and CEO Pete Liegl confirms.
The transaction between Clayton and Forest River, both units of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., was quietly finalized nearly two months ago but never reported in the press.
The sale of Hart, originally purchased by Forest River about eight years ago from RV industry entrepreneur Dave Hoefer, includes Hart Housing’s three-building complex on the south side of Wakarusa where 190 to 210 workers had typically been employed.
Although Clayton Homes spokesmen were unavailable for comment, RVBUSINESS.com has learned that the Wakarusa plant is now being managed by personnel out of Clayton’s Middlebury operation, one of the Tennessee company’s 35 plants.
“The sale entails them taking over Hart Housing and everything involved with Hart Housing,” Liegl told RVBUSINESS.com. “And, specifically, we got out of it because that’s (manufactured housing) not our core business. It is Clayton’s core business, and they’ll do better with it than what we have.
“We never did what we thought we could do or would do (in the housing sector), and we just decided that Clayton could do a much better job and it would fit in with their marketing and manufacturing locations,” said Liegl, who predicts that Forest River will post revenues this year of close to $3 billion. “So, obviously, Clayton is a sister company and it’s better for Berkshire Hathaway if they handle it.”
That said, Liegl emphasized that this was not a distress sale.
“In the last six or eight months, we were doing quite well with it, particularly for the units that we were building for up in North Dakota (where an oil boom is underway),” added Liegl. “But, again, how long is that going to last? So, I can’t look at one little item here and say this is good enough to keep it. I mean, we have not in the past accomplished what we wanted to accomplish in housing. And that’s Clayton’s forte. And, in fact, they’re hiring as we probably wouldn’t be right now.”
First acquired by Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway in 2003, Clayton’s 12,000 employees build, sell, finance, lease and insure manufactured and modular homes — as well as relocatable commercial and educational buildings — under the Schult, Karsten, Crest, Marlette, Golden West, SEhomes, Norris, Giles, Cavalier, Bucaneer and Clayton Building Solutions brand.