Colt Industries to Sell Its Troubled Firearms Unit

From Associated Press

Colt Industries Inc. said Tuesday that it would sell its beleaguered firearms division to a group of investors in a deal that could end a nearly 4-year-old strike by some union workers.

Terms of the sale to CF Holding Corp., which includes a Colt executive and two former United Technologies Corp. officials, were not disclosed. Analysts had said they expected the sale to bring between $150 million and $200 million.

The deal at the 153-year-old company that makes the Colt .45 pistol ended 3 1/2 months of negotiations as well as attempts by striking union workers to buy the division.

Michael Dunn, a spokesman for New York-based Colt Industries, said company officials expected to complete the sale in January. The new company will be called Colt’s Manufacturing Co.


The new owners said they did not know how many people will be employed by the company, but they extended an offer of sorts to striking United Auto Workers who walked off the job in January, 1986.

Anthony D. Autorino, one of the investors, said the new company would contact current and striking Colt workers immediately and begin hiring based on skill and seniority within three weeks.

“We think this will work out well for the people of Connecticut and the workers as well,” Autorino said in a statement.

Colt currently employs about 950 workers at plants in Hartford and West Hartford. Another 800 union workers are still on strike.


Colt was founded in Hartford in 1836 by Samuel Colt, who invented the revolver. The firearms division is a leading manufacturer of handguns and rifles for military and commercial uses.

Products include the Colt .45 pistol, the King Cobra Magnum revolver, AR-15 sport rifle and the M-16 military rifle. The company also makes aerospace and automotive parts.

Colt lost its contract to produce the M-16 for the Army in 1988. The loss of that contract, coupled with the strike, apparently figured in Colt’s decision to sell that division, but company officials deny it played a role.

“The buyout of Colt Firearms division by the CF Holding Corp. offers us an opportunity to write a new chapter for Colt workers, and I am hopeful that all the elements of this will come together,” Phillip Wheeler, executive director of the UAW’s Region 9A, said in a statement.

The investors include Autorino, former president of United Technologies’ Hamilton Standard division and now president of Wethersfield-based Shared Technologies; Richard F. Gamble, another former president of Hamilton Standard, and Ronald F. Stilwell, Colt Firearm’s vice president for military sales.

Autorino declined to identify the remaining investors.

When Colt announced in April it was seeking a buyer, the union and managers of the firearms division combined forces with the state and private investors to make a bid. State officials declined to comment on Tuesday’s announcement.

About 1,050 union workers walked off the job Jan. 24, 1986, after failing to reach agreement on a new contract during 10 months of negotiations. Some workers have crossed picket lines and others have found new jobs, leaving about 800 on strike. Replacement workers have been hired to fill their positions.


Autorino said the Colt plants are to close briefly in January to allow for inventory and transition. He said the plants should be operating at full capacity by March, 1990.