Kane Company, the nation’s largest commercial mover and a longtime Washington company, is closing most of its operations as of Sunday and laying off about 950 employees.
“We implemented an orderly wind-down of the business, where we will cease taking new business and will complete activities on Sunday of this week,” Kane Co. President John Kane said in an interview. “We have reached out or are reaching out to all our affected customers so as to limit or prevent service disruptions.”
The Kane Co.’s flagship Office Movers, known for its red, white and blue trucks, has moved some of the most high-profile clients in Washington, including the U.S. Senate, the FBI and the Pentagon.
The company’s shredding and archive storage divisions, which have interested potential buyers, are remaining open. The rest of Kane Co., including its hotel furniture installation and computer recycling divisions are closing.
Kane said the private, family-owned firm, with annual revenue of $48 million, found itself facing $2 million in lease costs it could not pay involving a move into new warehouse space.
“We got stuck in a squeeze play between third and home, between old and new leases not terminating at the same time,” said the 55-year-old owner, who had built the family operation. “I made a couple of stupid mistakes. Our bank lost patience with us.”
Employees will be paid through Sunday and will have health-care coverage until the end of December, Kane said.
Kane said he is working with landlords and bankers to avoid personal bankruptcy. The Kane Co. is an S Corporation, which means the company’s profits and losses are filed as part of Kane’s personal income tax statement.
“While I am attempting to get as many creditors paid as possible, I may have to seek protection by filing personal bankruptcy,” the businessman said. “I failed. Not our people.”
Kane is the second major Washington-area family business to close in recent years. Truland Group, which with 1,000 employees was once the 10th-largest electrical contractor in the United States, filed for bankruptcy in 2014.
The Truland shutdown sent ripples across the region, affecting not just hundreds of laid-off employees but dozens of construction companies that hired Truland to do electrical work on schools, offices, hospitals and residential projects.
Kane and his wife are well known around Washington. He is the former chairman of the Maryland Republican Party. His wife, Mary, ran unsucccessfully for Maryland lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket in 2010.
The Kanes, who live in Potomac, have been a fixture on the Washington area’s social scene for years, whether it’s sitting behind home plate at Nationals games, raising money at Catholic fundraisers or attending receptions for business colleagues.
Kane Co. has been owned and run by a family in the commercial moving business since 1969. It started when John Kane’s father, Eugene, bought a defunct Baltimore trucking company and built it into a profitable business focusing on the Baltimore-Washington region.
The company eventually expanded to more than a dozen facilities across five states, maintaining a fleet of trucks that at one point numbered 250.
Most of Kane’s revenue came from its bread-and-butter Office Movers business, but the company also branched out into more creative ventures as its customer base evolved. Kane hired movers with security clearances to get rid of shredded paper and equipment containing confidential information. Hospitality giants such as Marriott and Hyatt paid Kane to outfit hotel rooms with accoutrements of all sorts.
The news comes as a surprise for a business that managed to turn a modest profit in the difficult years after the recession without significant layoffs. The company lost about a quarter of its revenue in the immediate aftermath of the recession, but Kane kept layoffs to a minimum by cutting his own salary by 20 percent and suspending the 401(k) matching program.
In a 2011 interview he said the company turned a $3 million profit and grossed about $80 million.