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Published: Friday, 9/14/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Solar firm gets delay to repay state loan

Willard & Kelsey has until Oct. 26

BY KRIS TURNER
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Department of Development’s decision to delay Willard & Kelsey Solar Group’s loan repayment date from Sept. 5 to Oct. 26 was based on a plan the troubled Perrysburg solar-panel manufacturer shared with the department that’s aimed at raising additional funding.

Daryl Hennessy, assistant chief of the business services division at the department, said Willard & Kelsey improved its balance sheet and is attempting to acquire financing to cover the more than $4 million balance of its loan from the department. That information, along with financial documents given to the department, prompted the state to delay the loan's due date.

The financial documents submitted to the department are not a public record, Mr. Hennessy said.

“What they basically did was they were able to convert some of their debt into equity, and they were able to secure some outside investment,” he said. “As a result of that, they were able to show they are in a better financial position today than they were before.”

Mr. Hennessy said the company had not nailed down new sources of revenue as of Tuesday.

The department called the March, 2009, loan due in an Aug. 6 letter to the solar-panel manufacturer because it defaulted on the loan. The company did not make consistent payments to the department, which violated the terms of its loan contract.

On Wednesday, Willard & Kelsey was supposed to pay the more than $5 million balance of a separate loan it received from the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority but did not. The company missed payments on that loan also, causing it to default. The air authority’s board likely will initiate a collection process at its October meeting.

Mossie Murphy, Willard & Kelsey's vice president of development, said Thursday that the company intends to repay both loans but declined to go into specifics. In a previous interview with The Blade, Mr. Murphy said the company had moved back into a research and development phase and hoped to become operational by winter.

Willard & Kelsey has come under scrutiny from state officials because of its delinquencies with its loan payments.

It was revealed through a Blade investigation that executives were compensated with more than $1.4 million in company funds from the end of 2008 through the spring of 2009, and company credit cards were used to buy airline tickets for an executive’s family members, luxury furniture, and trips to Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Steelers sporting events.

That information was contained in financial statements and records maintained by former Willard & Kelsey Chief Executive Officer William Mitchell, who also claimed executives were compensated with money from the Ohio Department of Development loan. If true, those allegations would violate the terms of the company’s contract with the department of development.

Mr. Mitchell was fired from the company in 2009 and died in 2011.

If Willard & Kelsey fails to repay the state Department of Development by the due date, the case will be referred to the state attorney general’s office.

Contact Kris Turner

at: kturner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6103.



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