Minibike enthusiasts are getting nervous!

Briggs & Stratton, at one time the world’s largest gasoline engine and outdoor power equipment maker, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy on June 20, 2020. Among the many things it has made in its century-plus-long existence, its 5-horsepower, single-cylinder engines have powered many a minibike and go-kart. Other arguably more boring uses for its engines include both residential and commercial lawn and garden equipment, pressure washers, snow throwers, and portable generators.  

Even if you haven’t used something with the B&S name on it, you've likely used something powered by one of its engines. The company sells products in over 100 companies, under brands including Victa, Simplicity, Ferris, Billy Goat, Vanguard, Branco, and Allmand. It also supplies engines to other manufacturers including Viking, Toro, and Deere & Co, Craftsman, and Husqvarna Outdoor Products Group. 

Even prior to the ongoing pandemic, the company was struggling under a mountain of debt. Competition from rivals big and small—as well as major buyer Sears going bankrupt in 2018—combined to create an untenable situation.  

New York private equity firm KPS, which owns TaylorMade golf clubs and Life Fitness gym equipment, made a $550 million bid for Briggs & Stratton. That bid also establishes the minimum amount for any potential sale since it is the lead bidder, according to Bloomberg. It’s a bit weird to think of something at this scale and with thousands of jobs and livelihoods on the line as being just like eBay, but here we are.  

Anyway, KPS is already helping to fund a bankruptcy loan to keep B&S operating while it goes through the restructuring process. KPS also negotiated a new contract with the United Steelworkers of America, which represents B&S employees. Established plans already underway, such as moving production of some of its products from Wisconsin to Central New York, are still set to go through.  

“No, the recent filings will not affect our plans to move production to our NY facilities,” Rick Carpenter, VP of marketing and communication for Briggs & Stratton, told syracuse.com in an email.  

“The product that is manufactured in NY is critically important to the overall value of Briggs & Stratton. Our go forward plans include focus on and growth of those products and brands.” 

For the moment, the long-running company is still making engines and power equipment, but its future is uncertain. 

Sources: Milwaukee Journal-SentinelSyracuse.comOpelika-Auburn NewsBloomberg