Scarborough Town Manager Thomas Hall says Nike's announcement on Thursday that it planned to sell its Cole Haan brand caught him by surprise. After all, it was only last summer that Cole Haan moved its headquarters and upwards of 120 employees – according to published news reports at that time – from Yarmouth to a leased office building on Ashley Drive in the swanky Roundwood Business Park off Payne Road.
A reporter's phone call seeking comment on Nike's divestiture plan for Cole Haan was the first tipoff he had that there might be any uncertainty about Scarborough continuing to be the headquarters for the profitable maker of high-end leather footwear and bags whose ties to Maine date to 1957.
"No one contacted my office beforehand," Hall says of Nike, which plans to sell Cole Haan and another wholly owned affiliate brand, Umbro, a maker of soccer gear and apparel, by May 31, 2013. "As regards to its impact, it would be entirely speculative at this point."
Even so, Hall went through his own mental checklist to assess the prospects of Cole Haan staying in Scarborough once Nike finds a buyer.
"They're in a beautiful class-A office space," he says. "They have a superior product, the employees they have are top-notch. I like our chances, I think they're good."
In terms of employment, Hall says Cole Haan is more of a regional employer than a local one – although some of its employees, he says, reside in Scarborough. In terms of taxes, since Cole Haan leases its office space in Scarborough it doesn't pay any property taxes directly; those would be paid by the owner of the building.
Yet, if an eventual buyer of Cole Haan does choose to move the company's headquarters out of Scarborough, Hall acknowledged it would be "problematic," since it would create a 38,000-square-foot vacancy in the Roundwood Business Park. "There's a lot of class-A office space available in the Portland area," he says.
No one at Cole Haan's Scarborough headquarters would speak about Nike's divestiture plans, referring all questions to Charlie Brooks, Nike's senior director of global communications, in Beaverton, Ore.
In a written response to Mainebiz's questions submitted by email, Brooks declined to identify how many employees are now employed by Cole Haan in Scarborough, but acknowledged there are "1,984 Cole Haan employees globally."
"Our intention is that employees will remain in their current positions as the businesses transition and it is too early in the process to tell whether anyone will be displaced," he wrote. "To the extent loss of employment may occur as a result of the transition, we will appropriately manage and support our employees and consult with employee representative bodies where applicable."
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