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Out of cash, Born Free shuts its doors

Out of cash, Born Free shuts its doors

Editor’s note: Brandon Dodgen, son of Born Free Founder John Dodgen, told RV Daily Report late today after the newsletter went out that, “as far as I know, this is a temporary shut down. Waiting to hear further from the company’s ownership.”

HUMBOLDT, Iowa — Callers to Born Free Motorhomes this week are hearing a message that the company is shutdown through Friday. However, based on other correspondence with Born Free owners, the situation appears permanent, RV Daily Report has learned.

Two New York owners were scheduled to have factory work done June 12 in Humboldt. However, they received a voicemail and email Tuesday that the entire staff had been laid off. The June appointment was cancelled and the owners were told if the company reopens they will be called to reschedule.

A Wisconsin customer inquiring about ordering parts for his Born Free motorhome received an automatic reply noting “due to circumstances beyond our control, as of May 15, 2017 the Born Free factory in Humboldt, Iowa, will be closed until further notice.”

A dealer from Virginia arranging service for a customer was told the factory had been closed.

Another employee posted a notice on the Born Free owner’s forum. “The only information I have to post at this time is that the Born Free factory is closed until further notice. When and if the company receives an infusion of additional cooperating capital, then it will reopen.
Additional information will be posted here when it becomes available.”

A dealer partner indicated that the company was on the verge of filing for bankruptcy; however, no cases had been filed as of this morning.

Born Free has a solid reputation and very loyal following by the owners of its Class C motorhomes.

Two years ago in January, the company was sold to HFB Investments, a private equity firm based in Des Moines, Iowa.

In September 2015, John Dodgen, the founder of Born Free, passed away after a lengthy bout with cancer.

RV Daily Report attempted to contact company officials, but they have not yet responded to the inquiries.

 

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About Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber is a freelance writer and podcaster who has been writing about the RV industry since 2000. He is the former editor of RV Daily Report and can be reached at greg@rvdailyreport.com.

11 comments

  1. Ancient Mariner

    “Two years ago in January, the company was sold to HFB Investments, a private equity firm based in Des Moines, Iowa.”

    Well, therein lies the problem.

    • You are 100% correct…..it happens almost every time.

      HFB investments needed a loss on the books and all the recent buyers are going to pay for it.

      This entire industry is one good spike on oil prices away from an implosion.

  2. Those are not informed comments.

  3. You can’t blame private equity for this failure. I’m a Born Free owner and live in Iowa so I want this company to thrive. Here’s my belief: Born Free & Dodgen Industries was a successful family owned business because it could generate enough cash flow to allow a humble, Midwestern family to live off of while employing great people. When two generations of Dodgen family members died there was no option but to bring in outside capital. Outside investors (who have a choice where to tie up their money) need a much different profit structure than a family business does. I’m guessing the private equity firm had good intentions that they could build Dodgen into that but they clearly failed. That’s just the real and cold realities of business.

    • Agree with Jeff. Another terrific company bites the dust amongst the greed.

    • Jeff, I am a new born free follower. I just bought my first one. 2000 model 24 ft long. I love it but it needs some work. Any ideas of where I might find owners manual or anything???

  4. I am a Born-Free RV owner and full-timer. I have stopped by the factory in Humboldt many times on my travels through the Midwest, to have repairs or upgrades done in their service department. I was always assured of a friendly welcome, quality service and a free 30-amp site if I needed one, in their small camping area across the road from the office. I will miss my friends at Born Free. I hope they all find good jobs and can keep their families together.

  5. Can some body tell what is going on in Humboldt, we have new coach on order can’t reach born free. Phone not working

  6. Truly unfortunate news. After selling our 26′, we bought a new 27′ Splendor in 2014 from Born Free. Kim Olson was so great to work with in resolving some issues we had. Every employee we met at homecoming last year impressed us so much. Our hope and prayer is that operating capital will become available and Born Free can continue building the best class C coach on the market. Best wishes.

  7. Over the last 36 years of working on RV’s, I have seen big RV companies do this to shut down their competition. I was the west coast service center for Born Free. They flew me to the plant, gave me a place to stay, and ran me through the production for a week. Since that first experience, I’ve been there 3 times. Kim Olson has always been my first contact. If anyone has any info on how to find him, PLEASE reply to me.
    This company/person that bought the company then instantly shut them down, needs to be found and be held responsible for the criminal activities of taking the money from clients putting down hefty deposits, then finding out that the company is defunct.
    Any info would be helpful! Thanks in advance, John Larson, Nevada Mobile RV Service

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