February 4, 2021

To Thomas H. Lee Partners Investors:

We write to update you on new developments regarding the bankruptcy of Art Van, a Thomas H. Lee (“THL”) portfolio company, which resulted in thousands of workers losing their jobs and their health insurance in the midst of a global pandemic and recession.

In April 2020, more than 500 former Art Van employees asked THL to establish a fund to cover health costs for ourselves and our families for at least three months as we and our former coworkers looked for work.  When THL committed to establishing a hardship fund, the fund amount (about $320 a person) was far below what workers needed after losing their jobs. After further discussion and pressure from former employees, THL agreed to increase the fund so that qualified employees would receive $400 each and at the same time assuring us that THL would be actively working to fundraise to augment the hardship fund. THL also committed to match an additional $1 million to any added contributions.

In December 2020, we learned that the THL Fund was closing in early 2021, and despite THL’s assertion that they would increase the fund beyond the original $1m commitment, THL has failed to fundraise any additional monies. The $400 we did receive provided us with no meaningful relief and THL’s commitment is far lower than the precedent set by Robert Levin, who contributed over $1,500 to each of his former employees, who lost their jobs and health care along with all of us when Art Van closed, and below what people at Toys R Us received from the company’s former PE owners. 

THL recently redid their website to emphasize their commitment to “Responsible Investing” and ESG principles, but the firm continues to avoid their responsibility for destroying thousands of jobs at Art Van and leaving us with nearly nothing after decades of service. THL’s previous website had bragged that their executives personally contributed $335M of their own money to THL funds, and THL even got positive press attention for committing to “$1 million in a dollar-for-dollar match of money raised from other parties.”  THL can and must do better. 

 As an investor in the fund that acquired Art Van, you are in a position to engage THL directly about these issues. Given THL’s unfulfilled commitments to former Art Van employees, we ask that you contact THL and ask them to provide $1,500 for each former employee so we might have health coverage for our families as we continue to struggle with the impact of THL’s destruction of the nearly 60-year old ArtVan in three short years. THL has already set aside $1m in matching funds.  This money should be contributed immediately to help reach the $1,500 amount.  

If you have any questions or would like to set up a time to discuss these matters further, please contact Bianca Agustin at [email protected] or by phone at (718) 928-8350. 


Art Van Committee Members

Julie Ford
former Art Van Employee
Warren, MI

Sheena Simmons
former Art Van employee
Grand Rapids, MI

Joey Tallmadge
former Art Van employee
Clinton Township, MI

Melody Crawford
former Art Van employee
Detroit, MI

Shirley Smith
former Art Van employee
Detroit, MI

Laura Virgo
former Art Van employee
Rockwood, MI

Julia Irla
former Art Van employee
Clawson, MI

John Paniccia
former Art Van employeWaterford, MI