To Shift Work
By DOUGLAS WATSON
EcoQuest International, the Greeneville-based manufacturer and marketer of air and water purifiers, has been sold and will cease operations here.
Aerus Holdings, L.L.C. of Dallas, announced Monday afternoon in a news release that a subsidiary, DBG Group Investments, LLC. has acquired a majority of the assets of the Greeneville company.
EcoQuest International, which calls itself the "Healthy Living Company," provides state-of-the-art air and water purification products, energy management systems and nutritional supplements to consumers and businesses through network marketing.
DBG Group Investments said it "will be working over the next few months to consolidate manufacturing and operations of this new business into Aerus Holdings' 400,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution facility in Bristol, Va., and its World Headquarters in Dallas.
"During this transition, the company will continue to operate under the EcoQuest name."
DBG Group Investments, LLC, the Aerus subsidiary, said it "will employ a portion of EcoQuest's former employees to assist with the transition."
The local company's assets include the EcoQuest, Infinity, Heartland, activTek and UNOVUS product lines.
The purchasing company added, "To ensure that the needs of all distributors and customers are adequately met, EcoQuest's founder Mike Jackson has agreed to serve as national field leader."
Jackson was the founder, chairman and principal owner of EcoQuest.
In an interview, Jackson said he had informed EcoQuest's employees, who now are down to a total of about 200 personnel. The company at one time had some 500 local employees.
Jackson said EcoQuest's sales of air and water purifiers through a large network of EcoQuest distributors plummeted last fall with the onset of the serious national and international recession.
He also said there were problems in regard to bank financing, although he did not discuss these specifically.
'Nowhere Else To Turn'
Speaking about his decision to sell EcoQuest, Jackson said, "I had nowhere else to turn."
However, in the Aerus news release, Jackson said, "I am really enthused about the future of EcoQuest. Aerus has the resources and skills we have needed for years to take full advantage of the technology and opportunities that EcoQuest has available."
He said in the interview that Aerus plans to shift all of EcoQuest's operations to Bristol.
It is not clear how many people will be employed by EcoQuest's new ownership in Bristol.
Jackson said EcoQuest still has about 75,000 distributors in the United States and a number of other countries. They are independent dealers, not employees.
Aerus LLC, formerly Electrolux LLC, is a direct-selling, franchise organization with more than 500 locations in North America.
Aerus sells high-end vacuum cleaners, air filtration systems, water purification systems and a range of other products designed to create a healthier home environment.
Aerus said it makes most of its products at its facilities in the United States.
Aerus has been in business in North America for 85 years.
The original manufacturer of Electrolux vacuums from 1924-2003, Aerus said it "has over 50 million customers and has been honored for product design by the Smithsonian, where its Model XXX has been proudly displayed."
The company said, "Aerus sells high-end vacuum cleaners, air filtration systems, water purification systems and a range of other products designed to create a healthier home environment.
"Aerus makes most of its products at its facilities in the USA. Aerus has been in business in North America for 85 years.
Aerus Holdings' release continued, "This acquisition is a natural fit for Aerus Holdings, which also owns a number of other direct-selling companies including Aerus LLC, which was known as Electrolux from 1924-2003.
"With EcoQuest we will enter the global market with the same values that have guided our success as Electrolux and Aerus for over 85 years. Values that include a commitment to customer satisfaction, product excellence, ethical business practices and our global environment," said Joseph P. Urso, chairman and CEO of Aerus Holdings.
EcoQuest International, whose manufacturing operations are based in the Mt. Pleasant Industrial Park, welcomed a new group of owners in the spring of 2006.
Jackson, who had been the primary owner until that time, had sold controlling shares in the company, although he continued as one of the two largest shareholders.
He was succeeded as EcoQuest's president in June 2006 by Darryl Jackson, a manufacturing executive from Atlanta. The two Jacksons were not related.
Mike Jackson continued as chairman of the company's board and led EcoQuest's training efforts as its field sales leader. The company then had about 400 employees here.
However, Mike Jackson announced in 2007 that he and a close friend, Col. Lee Roper, together had acquired majority control of EcoQuest. Roper is a retired military officer who is one of the largest developers in the San Antonio, Texas, area.
Mike Jackson said then that he and Roper each owned at least 43 percent of the company's stock, or, between them, ownership of 86 to 90 percent of EcoQuest's stock.
EcoQuest International was founded in 2000, when it purchased some of the assets of Alpine Industries, which had moved here from Minnesota in 1997.
Alpine Industries' co-owners and top executives were Bill Converse and Mike Jackson, both of whom have since 1997 been Greene County residents.
Converse later retired from the company, selling it to Jackson.
EcoQuest in recent years has faced increasing competition in the sale of air purifiers.
A company executive said several years ago that, while five years earlier there were only about five companies selling air purifiers, by then 26 firms were doing so.
EcoQuest's local manufacturing output consisted of about 85 percent air purifiers and 15 percent water purifiers.
The company also sold everything from nutritional supplements and other pills to dust-mite-free bedding, energy-and enzyme-based diet drinks, an antibacterial hand wash, soap and skin rejuvenators.
Research for many of the company's nutritional products had been done in Scottsdale, Ariz., with those products formulated at various locations.
In the past decade, EcoQuest opened sales offices in a number of Far Eastern countries - Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan - as well as in Britain.
The company said questions with regard to the DBG acquisition of EcoQuest and the future operations of the EcoQuest assets should be directed to Carl Christoff at 214-378-4009.