Among the thousands of Utah businesses that went bankrupt in 1988, Beehive International stood out from the crowd.
The Utah-based computer company was the kind of success story entrepreneurs recite to themselves when the fires of their own ambitions burn low.Beehive International began 21 years ago as a $10,000 venture in an 800-square-foot building. Founder Warren B. Clifford launched his computer terminal manufacturing company by taking out a small newspaper ad that read, "business associates wanted." The company, then called "Beehive Electrotech," started with four employees.
By 1980, business writers were scrambling to feature the startling success of Beehive International. It had moved from its tiny origins to two spacious buildings at the Salt Lake International Center, totaling more than 100,000 square feet. It also boasted a large downtown office.
By then, the company employed 400 people and was doing more than one-third of its business in foreign countries. In 1980, it announced the construction of a plant in Ireland and plans to hire 300 people to run it. Annual sales soared, peaking at $39.9 million in 1981.
Those were glory years. The company was stroked and praised by local media and politicians. A Utah business can rise to international stature, everyone said, pointing to Beehive International.
In 1982, the company launched three new products and announced plans to take annual sales to $200 million a year within four years.
But the 1982 recession hit hard and the giant stumbled. A series of new managers and desperate strategies couldn't put Beehive International back on its feet. By 1985, the company had phased out the lauded Ireland plant and sold its Salt Lake International Center buildings to come up with more cash. Neither move helped.
By the end of the year, Beehive International had filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Chapter 11 gives the company a chance to reorganize and pay off its debts under the supervision of U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
The reorganization attempt failed. A few months ago, Beehive International filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, seeking to consolidate all of its assets to pay off creditors.
Friday brought the final humiliation. Anything of any value owned by the company was auctioned off to the public. Hundreds of strangers wandered through executive offices that still contained the heavy walnut furnishings bought in happier years. They fingered the wood, commented on the cut-matched grain and read the planning calendars left tacked to the wall.
The calendars detailed Beehive International's descent into liquidation: Dec. 9 - meeting with unsecured creditors; Dec. 16 - review of assets gone or disposed; Jan. 11 - last day to sell inventory; Jan. 27 - auction.
A large poster mounted on a metal stand still stood near the employee cafeteria. "Pride creates a generation of winners," the poster proclaimed, illustrating the point with a picture of a thoroughbred mare and her foal racing through a Kentucky meadow in the early morning.
The poster - like all the other reminders of Beehive International's reach for the stars - was for sale.