Once a fast-growing and promising environmental consulting and testing firm, Wapora Inc. babankruptcy last month.
Early last July, Union Trust Bank notified the Chevy Chase company that it planned tg relationship and call in about $300,000 of loans by the end of July.
The notification came just as Wapora that revenues had sharply dropped and the company had just suffered a $743,000 loss.
As a result, Wapora'sers in a July 5 letter, Wapora "may be unable to continue in existence."
However, a Northern Virginia busind the company at the eleventh hour when he promised the bank that his management consulting firm Inter-Americaiates Inc. would unconditionally guarantee Wapora's credit.
As a result, the bank renewed Wapora's credit ls are now confident that the firm will not only continue but also become a profitable company within the next e part to the increase in contracts issued by the Environmental Protection Agency as a result of Wapora's new ez's last-minute rescue added one more bit of drama to the complex and bitter takeover of Wapora last year. Ne Schirippa forced out the company's founder when he bought 79 percent of its stock in a $1.18 million deal andn.
At the time Schirippa bought the stock from Alcolac, a Baltimore chemical company, Wapora was in the fin the recession and the sharp reduction in environmental spending by the government under the Reagan administrad been Wapora's chief client--accounting for nearly 90 percent of the company's contracts.
Schirippa promiseby his newly created environmental testing firm, IHI-Kemron, would breathe new life into Wapora and return the company to profitability within three months.
But according to Wapora's own financial figures, things did not turn out that way. In fact, the company lost more money under Schirippa than it had under the previous president and chief executive officer, Jacob I. Bregman, who left Wapora over policy differences with Schirippa.
For the fiscal year ended March 28, the company's revenues totaled $2.9 million, down from the $4 million it had received during the shortened nine-month fiscal year before. The firm reported a $742,000 loss compared with the $19,600 profit tit made the year before.
Wapora was not the only one to lose money. IHI-Kemron also was suffering, failing among other things to keep up its payments to Alcolac for Wapora's purchase.
And that's where Gutierrez entered the picture. Knowing that IHI-Kemron was in trouble, Gutierrez decided to buy the company. He bought IHI-Kemron on June 30, and the following day, sought protection from the company's creditors by seeking permission under federal bankruptcy laws to reorganize the company's debt.
"It is a personal challenge to make it work," Gutierrez said to explain why he bought a failing company.
As part of that challenge, Gutierrez has assumed the 79 percent control of Wapora held by IHI-Kemron, and thus the company's chairmanship. Schirippa has completely faded out of the picture, with no one who used to deal with him able to get in touch with him. "Has he disappeared?" Gutierrez was recently asked. "I guess you could say that," he replied.
However, as far as Gutierrez is concerned, his priority is in turning IHI-Kemron and Wapora around. Although his company, Inter-America, has guaranteed Wapora's credit, Gutierrez says his interest in Wapora is strictly personal and his company has "nothing to do" with Wapora. Wapora will pay Inter-America a fee for the credit guarantee, Gutierrez added.
As far as Wapora is concerned, he said, "I intend to make no changes" in the management. Gutierrez said he was confident in Wapora's new president, Lawrence W. Olinger, who has been with the company for the last five years.
According to Olinger, the firm's prospects have brightened considerably since the auditor's report. With EPA contracts up, "we should be profitable within the next three months," he said. Noting the company has received a number of contracts in the past two weeks, Olinger said the company is about to begin hiring again--after having laid off more than 100 people.
Despite Gutierrez and Olinger's confidence, Wapora's former chief executive officer, Bregman, is not so confident.
"I think they are in deep trouble and it is about 50-50 whether they will survive. . . . A consulting company that doesn't have a product has only its credibility to sell," Bregman said. "Although Olinger and Gutierrez are good people, it's questionable whether they can overcome the damage to the credibility that the previous crew did to the company."
But adds, as the company's former head and as a continuing stockholder, Bregman added, "I hope I am wrong."