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Chinese firms sue Hartmann luggage

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From Post staff reports

Hartmann luggage has been sued by two Chinese firms which were to manufacture bags for the local company.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Nashville by Johnson Associated Corporation, based in Taiwan, and T. Chantal International Limited, based in Hong Kong. The two companies are asking for $706,000 in damages and interest.

Hartmann and Johnson entered into an agreement in July 2007 where Johnson would manufacture various products that would carry the Hartmann name. Hartmann closed a manufacturing operation in 2007. Johnson, under the agreement, placed manufacturing orders with T. Chantal, an affiliate.

According to the suit, Hartmann ran into some financial issues including not being able to make payments and ceased paying bills from June to September. In addition, the company also canceled orders which left T. Chantal with more than $80,000 in materials that could not be used for anything else other than products for Hartmann.

Frank Johnston, Hartmann chief operating officer, denied the allegations regarding financial problems and noted that Hartmann will contest the suit.

In a recent article in the Nashville Business Journal, Johnston called the two companies “bad partners” that sent Hartmann products that were of poor quality.

He noted that officials with T. Chantal did not provide access to its manufacturing site to Hartmann’s quality control personnel. He added that when Hartmann officials sought to develop a new luggage line with the two firms, some $300,000 provided by Hartmann for tooling had vanished.

The COO added that since Hartmann decided to outsource manufacturing to China there has been a turnover in management at the Lebanon-based company. New managers are working to bring some manufacturing back here. The company has been in Lebanon since 1959. Hartmann continues to operate a repair site and product development site in Lebanon. The firm produces high-end briefcases and Woodbox Pullmans.

Hartmann, founded in 1877, was purchased by Brown-Forman in 1983. Brown-Forman sold the company to Clarion Capital Partners, LLC, a private equity firm, in 2007. 

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