Shareholders unhappy with historic Scott’s Liquid Gold of Denver

January 13, 2013

Denver Post

The glitter is fading from Scott’s Liquid Gold, say shareholders upset with the Denver firm’s prospects and performance.

An epic series of financial losses and perceived management shortfalls at the 61-year-old company have some stock owners fed up and demanding changes.

But their efforts, so far, have been stymied by the tight control exercised by Scott’s homegrown chief executive and other insiders of the family-run company.

Simmering discontent among some shareholders came to a head recently when Scott’s announced a tentative agreement to sell and lease back its northeast Denver headquarters, where the company manufactures its flagship furniture polish.

While no one takes issue with the real-estate sale itself, it’s how the $9.5 million in proceeds will be used that is raising questions.

“I am very concerned about what our company’s board may do with the pending cash influx,” said shareholder Tim Stabosz. He advocates using the proceeds for a cash dividend or to fund a stock buyback, among other options.

Scott’s Liquid Gold has recorded net losses in 14 of the past 15 years — a financial track record that rankles Stabosz.

Over the years, sales of the namesake wood conditioner and other household products have been overtaken by Scott’s line of Alpha Hydrox skin-care and hair products. The cosmetics sector now accounts for 68 percent of sales.

But the product transition has not been enough to stem Scott’s long financial slide.

U.S. sales of furniture polish and related products have dropped from $233 million in 2007 to $207 million in 2012, a decline of 11 percent, according to research from Mintel Group.

University of Denver finance professor Mac Clouse said Scott’s dissident shareholders “are asking a really good question” about how the proceeds will be used.

“If you keep throwing cash in a sinking ship,” he said, “that’s not a sustainable model.”