Howell Munitions & Technology, in Lewiston, has been acquired by another company that pledged to run it with current staff and help it emerge from a complicated bankruptcy.
Kash CA, based in Lewiston, was the only business to bid on the assets of Howell Munitions & Technology and seven affiliated businesses in a transaction approved last month by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Nevada.
The president and owner of Kash CA, Daniel Kash, said he plans to make sure the operation is “lean, mean” and “tight.”
“I know there is a lot of opportunity (at Howell),” Kash said. “It’s just a matter of execution.”
Kash CA purchased a claim of $17.5 million for $8.8 million from Zions First National Bank, which lent money to Howell before the bankruptcy, according to court records in the proceedings.
Other terms included Kash CA paying $3 million in installments that will be available to others that filed claims in the bankruptcy, Kash said.
Most of Howell’s remaining roughly 80 employees who ran the operations during the bankruptcy kept their jobs, but they had to reapply for them, Kash said.
The acquisition of Howell is the latest turn of events for an operation that once employed 450 in Nez Perce County, where it manufactured ammunition, ammunition components and ammunition-making equipment.
Like many other businesses in its sector, it did well when gun owners stockpiled ammunition during Barack Obama’s presidency, fearing tougher regulations that were never imposed. Demand plummeted after President Donald Trump was elected, and Howell’s operations struggled.
Net sales of the Howell companies and two other affiliated companies in the bankruptcy were $85.8 million in 2015, $105 million in 2016, $74.6 million in 2017 and $33.6 million in 2018, according to a motion filed by Howell’s attorneys in the bankruptcy.
“The debtors’ financial difficulties include an over expansion … and an oversupply in the ammunitions marketplace, which caused the price of ammunition to decline significantly,” according to the motion. “In 2017, the debtors were unprofitable and experienced significant cash flow difficulties.”
The resolution of the bankruptcy was opposed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. That federal agency alleged Howell Munitions & Technology subsidiary Twin River Contract Loading owes $12 million in excise taxes.
But the bankruptcy judge sided with Kash, the operators of Howell and others that had claims in the bankruptcy.
“The terms and conditions of the Kash asset purchase agreement are fair and reasonable, represent the highest and best offer for the purchased assets, and will provide ... a greater recovery for the debtors’ creditors than would be provided by any other alternative,” according to an order in the case by Judge Bruce T. Beesley of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the District of Nevada.
Kash is familiar with Howell operations for a number of reasons outlined in court documents. He is a friend of David Howell, the founder of the Howell businesses, and the two men own a residential rental property together in Mexico. Kash has other ventures, LAX Firing Range and LAX AMMO, an ammunition manufacturer that has been a “major” customer of Howell.
The ties between Kash CA and Howell will continue. Kash CA will lease buildings for Howell operations from David Howell, who will serve as a consultant for the business, Kash said.
But the terms of the purchase don’t satisfactorily address an ongoing dispute between Howell Munitions & Technology and the U.S. Department of the Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which is appealing the ruling, according to court documents.
“Twin River (Contract Loading) representatives have admitted to the (bureau) that their deliberate practice was to pay (the bureau) last, if at all, after first paying all other expenses,” according to an amended complaint filed by the bureau in the bankruptcy.
Twin River, which manufactured ammunition, was shut down in May 2018 and was not included in the bankruptcy that was filed the following month, according to Howell officials.
“Howell deliberately did not include Twin River among the entities … that became debtors in the ... bankruptcy proceedings … because Twin River was the entity he had caused to accrue the excise tax liabilities,” according to the bureau’s amended complaint.
Howell Munitions & Technologies takes a different stance.
The claim the bureau filed was against a part of Howell Munitions & Technology that has never manufactured ammunition, according to a statement from Angela Smith, chief financial officer of the Howell companies in bankruptcy.
“Accordingly, HMT believes that it owes no obligation to the (bureau),” Smith said in the statement.
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