The heirs of Archie Van Elslander have bought back legal rights to the Art Van Furniture name, four years after the family patriarch sold the furniture company to a private-equity firm and nearly a year since the company went bankrupt and began closing all of its nearly 200 stores.
Gary Van Elslander, son of the company’s late founder and acting through a family investment company called VEC, successfully bid $6 million for the naming rights. The sale was approved Feb. 1 by a bankruptcy court judge overseeing Art Van Furniture’s still-ongoing liquidation case.
A VEC representative declined to give an interview about the family’s future plans — if any — for use of the Art Van Furniture brand, but issued a statement:
“The Art Van Furniture name was part of the Van Elslander family for decades, from the time Art Van Elslander founded the company in 1959 until he sold it in 2017. The Van Elslander family felt it was important to reclaim the name that was, for so long, synonymous with tremendous value and commitment to Michigan’s communities. They look forward to having the Art Van Furniture name back in the family, where it belongs.”
The last remaining Art Van Furniture stores closed last year with everything-must-go sales that were put on by American Signature, the parent company of Value City Furniture.
Many of the old Art Van stores were later reborn in late summer and early fall as Loves Furniture, an entirely new company created by a Texas private-equity firm. But Loves encountered a slew of setbacks, including expensive warehouse and logistical problems, and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Jan. 6.
Gary Van Elslander, who is president of VEC, early on bid $2.1 million for the Art Van Furniture naming rights. Then American Signature put in a $2.2 million bid on Jan. 20. VEC countered and ultimately won the auction with its $6 million offer.
Gary Van Elslander didn’t say in court documents what his plans are for the Art Van Furniture name. However, he did state that as part of the naming rights purchase, his family is released from any past noncompete and non-solicitation agreements.
Warren-based Art Van Furniture sold itself in early 2017 to Boston-based private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners in a $612.5 million deal that included the sale of Art Van stores’ real estate to new landlords, who began to charge the stores rent.
Art Van Eslander died a year later at age 87.