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VIP Luxury Seating back in business, with original backers

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VIP Cinema Seating’s cut-and-sew department in New Albany. The company employed 550 people overall, building recliner seating for theaters across the world.

NEW ALBANY – The founders of VIP Cinema Seating and some additional investors have resurrected the company and plan to hire 100 workers as it restarts operations.

VIP Luxury Seating, as it's now called, is a $180,000 corporate investment.

The Mississippi Development Authority is providing a $150,000 grant for building improvements and to consolidate the company's operations into one facility.

Founded in New Albany in 2008, VIP Cinema Seating  started with 30 employees and eventually grew to employ  550 workers.

VIP had grown to become the largest provider of the chairs with 70% of the market. But it was hurt by a slowdown in the number of screens, a drop in box office sales and a longer replacement cycle of the chairs.

H.I.G. Capital, a Miami-based private equity firm, invested $62.5 million in VIP in 2017 and bought out its former owners. It would have kept a share of the company after restructuring, but according to the Wall Street Journal, backers of the strategy had second thoughts as theaters around the country closed in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

VIP had expanded over the years into 900,000 square feet of manufacturing space, and at its peak employed some 550 workers. The company could produce up to 1,000 chairs a day, and had delivered more than 1 million to theaters worldwide.

The original founders – which includes executive chairman Stephen Simons – as well as two additional investors, acquired the majority of the assets to rebuild the company.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the governor, MDA and Randy Kelley and his wonderful team at Three Rivers for their continued support of industry in Northeast Mississippi,” said Simons. “It’s also appropriate to mention the incredible support Union County has provided VIP since the original company started in 2008. The true credit for the company’s success goes to the superior skilled workforce of Union County. They have been great partners and deserve much of the credit.”

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