Lois closes Chicago shops

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Workers at financially troubled Lois/USA said the agency had closed its two Chicago offices as of Oct. 15. Employees at Lois' Fogarty Klein 312 and its Lois/EJL offices received a paycheck on Oct. 8 and were told it was good through Oct. 15, according to two recently laid-off employees.

The status of the New York offices was not clear at deadline. Lois management in New York did not return calls by deadline.Lois employees said the company never explicitly said the offices were closing but that employees would not be offered COBRA health insurance, which is offered once employees leave a job. A human resources department memo also indicated employees would not be paid for unused vacation time unless they filed for the money, along with other creditors, a former employee said.

The employees said the Oct. 8 memo was the only communication the New York-based holding company had sent workers; recently the agency had received phone calls from unpaid venders, while news reports had circulated that it was behind at least 90 days on its bills. The country's No. 105 agency said in its June quarterly report that it had a working capital deficit of $30.4 million, $2.4 million greater than in December due in part to acquisitions.

Last week, as expected, Barton Beers moved its Corona Extra and Modelo products from Fogarty Klein 312 to Cramer Krasselt, Chicago, which came in second for the business when it was pitched in 1996. Barton imports the Modelo products into the western U.S.

Lois/USA bought Eisaman, Johns & Laws in February 1996 for $9.6 million to form Lois/EJL. It bought Fogarty & Klein in December 1997 for $10.8 million. Lois said in June that it believed cash flow from operations as well as loans would be sufficient to meet its bills to Fogarty, EJL and other creditors.

Copyright October 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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