New Viking Range owner cuts 140 workers, will close Memphis cooking school

GREENWOOD, Miss. — Viking Range Corp.’s new owner is laying off one-fifth of the company’s workers.

Middleby Corp, based near Chicago, said it laid off about 140 of Viking’s 700 employees Thursday.

Also, Viking founder and Chief Executive Officer Fred Carl Jr. announced his retirement. Carl had earlier said that he probably would lead the company for several more years and cited Middleby’s pattern of leaving managers in place after buying companies.

Layoffs are effective immediately, with a majority in Viking’s hometown of Greenwood. Spokeswoman Darcy Bretz said she doesn’t know if fired workers are receiving severance pay.

Viking also said it will close cooking schools in Memphis and Ridgeland, Miss. The Memphis school, located at 1215 Ridgeway, opened in 2006. It’s still offering classes through March. Middleby announced Dec. 31 that it was buying Viking for $380 million from shareholders including Carl and Arkansas’ Stephens family.

Bretz said the layoffs were spread across the company but were heavier in some departments. She offered no explanation for Carl’s resignation.

Carl and Viking have worked to revitalize Greenwood’s downtown, including the Alluvian Hotel and a cooking school there. Those operations will stay open.