Authenticom, a La Crosse-based data integrator in the automotive industry, informed 55 employees that they will be laid off effective Feb. 2 because of the company’s prolonged antitrust battle with two larger companies, founder and CEO Steve Cottrell said Wednesday.
“I consider these people as family,” Cottrell said during a phone interview Wednesday in which his voice reflected obvious anguish over the decision, which he described as a “resizing mode.”
“I deeply, personally regret this. We’ve done everything in our power to avoid this,” Cottrell said of the action, which will leave Authenticom with 36 employees.
Authenticom Inc. gained substantial traction in its antitrust lawsuit against two companies that the La Crosse corporation contends are trying to drive it out of business when a federal judge granted a temporary injunction against the pair.
Cottrell had remained steadfast in his resolve to keep Authenticom’s roughly 110 employees on the payroll as the antitrust suit against CDK Global and Reynolds and Reynolds Co. winds its way through the court system.
Cottrell’s announcement to the affected employees came two days after the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago dealt Authenticom a blow in its suit, which the company filed in federal court in Madison on May 1.
Preliminary injunction quashed
The appeals court set aside a district court’s preliminary injunction barring CDK Global and Reynolds from interfering with Authenticom’s business.
“Although we are disappointed with the Court of Appeals’ ruling, we continue to remain confident in the ultimate success of our case and continue to work diligently through discovery in preparation for trial,” Cottrell said in a letter addressed to “valued partners” Tuesday.
“The human side of the layoffs is sweeping,” Cottrell lamented during the interview. “One employee has been with me for 15 years and has four small children. There are employees with pregnant spouses, and some who have just bought homes.”
Authenticom, which tried to hold its number of layoffs to the dozen announced in August, set the Feb. 2 date to lay off the 55 to extend benefits for them, Cottrell said. They will receive help with job-placement efforts, resume writing and other assistance needed to secure new jobs, he said.
“These are the people who made this company, and made us a success,” he said. “This is a tribute to what the larger team has done.”
After the downsizing, Authenticom will be “well-positioned and viable” and able to pay bills that had piled up as CDK and Reynolds took actions that Cottrell said are intended to bankrupt the company he founded in 2002 in his son’s bedroom.
“We have found significant opportunities outside of the automotive sector,” he said.
“Change is on the horizon, and we are inspired by the way our industry has embraced both technological change and at the same time pushed back on the status quo of control of emerging technology by the privileged few,” he said.
Authenticom, which is headquartered in the Doerflinger building in downtown La Crosse, is a third-party data integrator that links car dealers to software vendors such as CDK and Reynolds. Cottrell’s suit alleges that CDK and Reynolds have colluded in an illegal plot to block Authenticom from access to their data, costing it millions of dollars and pushed it to the brink of insolvency.
CDK and Reynolds counter that their data is proprietary and insist that Authenticom should not be allowed to scrape the information.
Profits plunge nearly 80 percent
The companies’ actions caused Authenticom’s profits to plunge by 77.22 percent between the third quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of this year, according to Authenticom’s suit filings.
They “have left Authenticom cash-flow insolvent, with insufficient earnings and resources to satisfy its outstanding debt obligations,” the suit alleges.
Authenticom had been unable to pay an $11 million principal payment to a bank in April, as well as a tax-related obligation of about $1.17 million that same month, among other financial setbacks, the suit contends.
CDK and Reynolds are the two big dogs in the automotive data sector, in which Authenticom is the other major player. CDK is a publicly traded Delaware corporation with headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Ill. It provides DMS software and services to car dealerships throughout the country and has more than $2 billion in annual revenues. The private corporation of Reynolds and Reynolds is headquartered in Dayton, Ohio.
For its part, CDK issued a statement saying, in part, “We strongly believe that our policy of not allowing unauthorized intermediaries onto our systems is the best way to preserve the integrity of those systems and the security of our customers’ data.”
No court has “mandated unfettered access to the data and systems operated by another company,” according to the statement. “We remain committed to protecting our property rights and those of third parties with data on our systems, and will continue to mount a vigorous defense against the meritless claims that have been made against us by Authenticom.”
Obama lauded company for growth, wages
Cottrell was thrust into the national spotlight in 2015, when President Barack Obama saluted Authenticom during a major financial address he delivered at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
“So this business that began in Steve’s son’s old bedroom is now one of America’s own fastest-growing private companies based in a historic building right here in downtown La Crosse,” Obama said.
“Now, I guarantee you Steve worked hard, he put everything he had into it. He took enormous risks,” the president said. “But he also is somebody who recognizes that he didn’t do it by himself.
“He’s proud of what he accomplished, but he also talks about how fortunate he’s been to be part of a community like La Crosse,” Obama said.
The president lauded Authenticom’s practices of paying fair wages, with paid sick days, and treating employees like family.
In the letter to clients, Cottrell said, “We are ready to further our role as the data integrator of choice and the premier data services provider.”
In addition, he wrote, Authenticom plans to launch new, simplified technology and a new website for its DealerVault product.
During the interview, Cottrell expressed gratitude for the support that Mayor Tim Kabat and U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, have offered his company amid the throes of the court actions.
Cottrell also voiced confidence in the company’s ability to rebound, saying, “This is just a chapter in the book, but the book is not written.
“We are taking steps necessary to make this a 100-year company,” he said.
From Tribune files: Openings and closings of La Crosse area businesses
Each week, Tribune business columnist Steve Cahalan reports on the latest openings and closings in the La Crosse area.
Steve and Christie Peters have opened Two Beagles Brewpub in the former Seasons by the Lake restaurant at 910 Second Ave. N. in Onalaska.
Co-op Credit Union based in Black River Falls will open its new Onalaska branch office on Wednesday.
Two new La Crosse restaurants — Lovechild and Senor Villa — are in the works, in the former Hooters restaurant at 300 S. Third St. downtown, and in the former Jade Cafe at 325 West Ave. N.
A rural Spring Grove, Minn., farmer has begun making whiskeys with his own grain at the area’s first craft distillery, in downtown Spring Grove.
Ryan Johnson has opened the Tanglewood Cafe in downtown Trempealeau, where he’s serving coffee, tea and smoothies, as well as doughnuts, muffins, scones and cookies from Bloedow Bakery in Winona.
James Richardson and Holly Solberg have opened Fat Cat Bait & Fishing Supply in a multi-tenant building at 11364 Main St. in downtown Trempealeau.
Thrifty Pickin’s and Widner Wood Creations have moved to the former Main Street Mercantile building at 219 Central Ave., along Hwy. 14/61 in downtown Coon Valley. And owners of the two businesses have begun renting spaces in the large building to vendors.
Estina Hanes opened her E Spa & TLYN Makeup Studio on Monday at its new location in a professional office building at 1523 Rose St. on La Crosse’s North Side.
Luke and Emily Wagner opened a Beef Jerky Outlet store last week in Onalaska’s Crossing Meadows shopping center, and the La Crosse couple plan to eventually open more locations in other markets.
Two years after they opened their first The Pizza Oven restaurant in Holmen, three West Salem residents have opened a second location in their hometown.
Dan Nelson is expanding his Catgut Marina operation on French Island by adding another eatery, 70 boat slips and a boat and parts sales and service facility.
Nearly three years after buying their used book business at 726 Rose St. on La Crosse’s North Side, Stephanie Johnson-Sanders and her parents are moving Book Revolution to the South Side.
Steve and Christie Peters have started advertising for employees at Two Beagles Brewpub, which they plan to open soon in the former Seasons by the Lake restaurant at 910 Second Ave. N. in Onalaska.
Rafael Mendoza and his wife, Mariana Acevedo, plan to open Mexican Tamales restaurant sometime in May at 306 Sand Lake Road, across from the Center 90 shopping center in Onalaska.
Ken and Kathy Smith have opened Smith Family Furniture at 47 Copeland Ave., across from the Candlewood Suites hotel in La Crosse.
Redemption Bookstore will open Saturday at 201 Sand Lake Road, in the Center 90 shopping center in Onalaska.
Kraus-Anderson Inc., the Minneapolis-based company that owns Shelby Mall and is part owner of the U.S. Bank Place building in downtown La Crosse, has purchased the Crossing Meadows shopping center in Onalaska for $16.3 million, according to county records.
The Fix telephone and computer repair shop opened Jan. 20 at 413 Jay St., near Cabin Coffee in downtown La Crosse.
Eitzen State Bank opened its third location on Monday in Suite A at 111 S. Walnut St. in downtown La Crescent, Minn. It’s in the same office building as AcenTek.
After an extensive renovation, 4 Sisters 4th Street Bar and Catering opened Jan. 4 in the former Consumers Bakery building at 133 S. Fourth St. in downtown La Crosse.
Robert and Meghan Arguelles have doubled the size of their Apex Hobby Shop, with its move to the former Secret Sun tanning salon location at 1910 Campbell Road, across from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Sonya and Dean Pennel plan to open La Crosse Burn Boot Camp in late January at 4320 Mormon Coulee Road, in Shelby Mall on the far South Side of La Crosse.
AMV, LLC, which makes foamed recycled glass products, has moved into 10,000 square feet of leased space at 400 Car St., one of the buildings in the former PACAL Industries plant in La Crosse.
Some of his friends call him Crazy Dave because of things he’s done — such as occasionally jumping with daredevil friends from one moving freight train to another in a La Crosse railyard during his high school years.
The La Crosse coffee shop scene is expanding, with MOKA opening a drive-thru location last week at 330 Adams St., and Cabin Coffee planning to open its second La Crosse coffee shop on Jan. 16 at 2843 Darling Court, in part of the La Crosse Wellness Center complex just south of Famous Dave’s restaurant, off Hwy. 16.
Waxing the City body waxing studio will open Tuesday at 319 S. Third St., on the first floor of the Grand River Station building in downtown La Crosse.
George Baldwin and Steve and Laurie Miller opened Cool Beans Coffee Shop on Dec. 18 at 1221 La Crosse St., at the corner with West Avenue.
Heather Yahnke has opened Heavenly Crossroads Salon & Spa at 2835 Darling Court, in part of the building that houses the La Crosse Wellness Center on the city’s far North Side. The building is just south of Famous Dave’s restaurant.
A decade after they opened it, Byron and Loretta Johnson have closed Grandpa Nick’s Petting Farm, about 4 miles southeast of Warrens.
Aaron Tourville and Stephanie Averbeck opened A&S Clothing Co. on Nov. 26 at 506 Main St. in downtown La Crosse, selling what Tourville describes as unique, affordable women’s fashions.
Downtown West Salem is getting a coffeehouse.
Nearly a decade after they operated it in downtown Melrose, Cindy and Jeff Waughtal have opened JC’s Pizza & Pub at N378 Hwy. 108, three miles south of Melrose.
Owners Kelly Castady and her friend Megan Goebel will open Willow Boutique on Wednesday at 309 Pearl St. in downtown La Crosse.
Rafael Mendoza and his wife, Mariana Acevedo, opened Mexican Tamales Restaurant last week at 306 Sand Lake Road, across from the Center 90 shopping center in Onalaska.
The 4 Sisters group of businesses in La Crosse will expand soon by opening the Creekside Pub and Grill and wedding venue at the former location of The Fieldhouse Bar and Grill.
Jolene Quinn has started Ole’s Pizza Co., a catering business that also serves its pizza and other food at public events.
Paul Grant and his son, Boyd, have moved their Designz screen printing, embroidery and promotional products business from the Coulee Region Business Center to 528 Loomis St., at the corner of St. Andrew and Loomis streets in La Crosse.
Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores will open its new Onalaska store on Thursday in Suite 300 at 1220 Crossing Meadows Drive, after remodeling the Crossing Meadows shopping center space where Hancock Fabrics closed July 22.
Jimmy Powell opened Oscar’s Full Belly Deli drive-thru last week in the former location of his Jimmy’s Gyro Hut, in front of LAXprint at 146 Rose St.
Its owner has converted The Viking Inn supper club at 113 N. Main St. in downtown Viroqua to The Eatery Cafe, which made its debut Friday.
Mario Villasenor, a native of Mexico, opened Señor Villa Mexican Grill & Bar restaurant a week ago in the former Jade Café location at 325 West Ave. N.
Two years after moving to the area, Kelly Castady and her friend Megan Goebel plan to open the Willow Boutique in November at 309 Pearl St. in downtown La Crosse.
Clothes Mentor, an upscale resale store for women, will open within a few months in Suite A at 1226 Crossing Meadows Drive, the former Blockbuster Video space in the Crossing Meadows shopping center in Onalaska.
Carbone’s Pizzeria & Billiards opened Wednesday at 1920 Ward Ave. in La Crosse, featuring pizza, calzones, burgers, hoagie sandwiches, salads and appetizers.
Vernon Communications Cooperative on Wednesday held a grand opening at its new Viroqua Technology Center at 214 N. Main St. in that community.
Good Greens Aquaponics at 2424 Commerce St. on the far North Side of La Crosse has started offering tours by appointment and plans to open its own retail store within a few weeks.
The Crossing Meadows shopping center in Onalaska won’t be without a fabric store for long.
A year after it opened, Karen Bressi is moving her Creative Canvas & Board painting studio next door, to one of the largest remaining vacant retail spaces in downtown La Crosse — the former Salem Markos and Sons store at 313 Pearl St. The apparel store closed in 2005 when its owners retired.
Two longtime veterans of the industry have purchased and renamed what’s now known as Neuie’s Vogue Bar & Grill at 1820 George St. on the city’s North Side.
Jennifer Davis and her son, Levi Tanner, have opened Primitive Parlor Salon and Barber in the Powell Place building at 200 Main St. in downtown La Crosse.
A July 16 grand opening is planned for the new Ross Dress for Less off-price apparel store in the former OfficeMax store at 9412 State Road 16, next to Hobby Lobby in the Pralle Center in Onalaska.
Overtime Sports Bar at 1920 Ward Ave. in La Crosse closed June 28 and is being remodeled into a Carbone’s Pizzeria & Billiards that’s expected to open around Aug. 19.
Apex Hobby Shop in La Crosse added a second location last week — in Sparta — and probably will have a third one soon — in Orlando, Fla.
Burger Fusion Co. has opened its second location, in the former Buster’s Bar & Grill at 200 Pearl St. in the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites building in downtown La Crosse.
A sports apparel store is coming to Valley View Mall, another store is about to expand, and improvements have been made to two other mall locations.
It’s been five years since Tim and Eva Ewers opened Le Chateau restaurant in the historic Mons Anderson House at 410 Cass St. in downtown La Crosse.
Kevin Miller has renovated and renamed what’s now Coulee Bicycle Co. at 213 Main St. in downtown Onalaska, in anticipation of more bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
Bruce “Billy” Banes and Brandon Rigger plan to open the Castle La Crosse bed and breakfast in April or May in a historic home at 1419 Cass St.
After 13 years at 1011 S. 10th St., Instrument Repair of La Crosse is moving to 1216 S. Third St., across the street from Dave’s Guitar Shop.
Feb. 24 is expected to be the last day for the Jeri’s Hallmark store in Valley View Mall, said Tonya Whitewater, who manages both that store and the Jeri’s Hallmark in the Crosseroads Center shopping center in Onalaska.
New owners have opened Global Grounds coffee shop in the former McCaffrey’s Coffee at 1808 State St. in La Crosse.
Courtesy Corp., an Onalaska-based franchisee that operates 59 McDonald’s restaurants, plans to rebuild its George Street location in La Crosse in the next several months, and its Losey Boulevard location in the next couple years.
A La Crosse law firm has purchased the former La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce building at 712 Main St. in downtown La Crosse, and plans to move there in September after remodeling is completed.
The former location of an Onalaska frozen yogurt shop has been transformed into a nail salon.
Evan Mau’s original Gaming Generations store at 714 La Crosse St. is moving to the former Suppz location, Suite 103 at 40 Copeland Ave., in Three Rivers Plaza, effective April 1. Suppz moved last fall.
Tan M. Pham, who was 12 when his family fled South Vietnam just before it fell to communist troops, has started a Vietnam food tour business.
Eight new businesses are opening in downtown Viroqua for the holiday season in the fourth annual pop-up shop program sponsored by the Viroqua Chamber Main Street program and participating landlords.
After working for CenturyLink for more than a decade, Suzanne K. Bassette has opened the Spirited Mind Treasure & Variety Shoppe at 719 State St. in downtown La Crosse.
The new owner of the Pizza Huts in La Crosse and Winona is replacing the Ward Avenue location with a new one in the former Radio Shack space in Shelby Mall on the South Side of La Crosse.
Fred and Antoiwana Williams opened the basketball-themed Press Break drive-thru last week in front of LAXprint at 146 Rose St., serving panini sandwiches and soups.
After moving back to the area from Florida, Onalaska native Matthew Peterson expected to open Surf & Scotch men and women’s apparel and accessories sometime this weekend at 320 Pearl St. in downtown La Crosse. At press time, it wasn’t certain which day that would be.
The La Crosse-based MOKA coffee shop chain opened its seventh location — a drive-thru — last week in the Crosseroads Center shopping center along Hwy. 16 in Onalaska.
It still has its stained glass windows and tall steeple.
Pa Houa Vang and her husband, Chao Thao, opened Taste of Thai restaurant last Monday — yes, on Labor Day — in Suite 106 at 205 S. Holmen Drive in Holmen. It’s in the same multi-tenant building that houses Holmen Ace Hardware & Rental.
There’s good news for people who enjoy eating freshly made pizza outdoors, on a farm, while they socialize and listen to live entertainment.
The bar opened Saturday at the Sylvan Glen supper club near Stoddard, which is expected to be in full operation with a full food menu by early October.
Diana Hobson plans to move her DnA Vintners winery tasting room in a few months to a more visible location at 1223 Caledonia St., and to begin offering regular hours there.
With help from her mother, Rachel Perez plans to open a new cake shop/coffee cafe by early September at 16846 S. Davis St. on the town square in downtown Galesville.
Addie Tourville plans to open her second addiecakes shop later this month, near the Build-a-Bear Workshop in Valley View Mall.
Dave and Stephanie Bentzen plan to open B’s Place event venue next spring after renovating a former restaurant at 102 N. Leonard St. in downtown West Salem.
Ethnic food choices in Holmen are about to expand.
That Foreign Place gift shop has moved to Suite 102 at 107 S. Third St. in downtown La Crosse. And a wine bar is expected to open sometime in August in the front of the shop.
Erika Douglas has opened the Driftwood Diner in the former Copper Penny restaurant at 200 Main St. in Brownsville, Minn.
Longtime fiber arts enthusiasts Kait Holton and Carolyn Zick plan to open Unwound: Artisan Yarn Shop in early August at 413 Jay St. in downtown La Crosse.
Sheri Betz and Ya Sayaovang hope to open Little Feet & Helpful Hands Childcare and Preschool in early to mid-September at 3900 Circle Drive in the Cedar Creek Business Park along County Hwy. OT in Holmen.
The La Crosse-based MOKA coffee shop chain is expanding to Onalaska.
Bijan Jadali plans to open his new Pita Corner restaurant and reopen his The Golden Tap craft beer and gastropub business on Wednesday, both in the former Midas auto service building at 520 State St.
Coulee Bank has applied to federal and state regulators for permission to open a full-service branch in part of The Shoppes at Hale Drive retail/office development planned at 129 Hale Drive, near the new Festival Foods store that’s under construction in Holmen.
Spring Grove Soda Pop has opened a retail store at 149 W. Main St. in downtown Spring Grove, Minn. And it plans to build a new warehouse/distribution facility next year and a new bottling plant by 2022.
Several years after it closed, the Sylvan Glen supper club near Stoddard will reopen in the coming months in a new building constructed for new owners Danny and Ruthie Lepke.
Chue Lor and his girlfriend Soua Vue plan to open their new 8-GOS egg roll business in early June — probably on June 2.
New owners Rob and Brandy Heilman have extensively remodeled the Iron Physique Gym at 605 Gillette St. in La Crosse and will hold a grand reopening/open house on Saturday.
Kelly and Kristine Everhart have opened their new, much larger Old Country Cheese LLC store at S502 County Road D, next to the K&K Cheese LLC plant five miles southeast of Cashton.
Robbi Wolff is moving her That Foreign Place imports store to a much larger downtown La Crosse location as of June 1. And she plans to open a Greek restaurant next door in early August.
The La Crosse Training Center opened April 1 in the lower level of the downtown King on 5th building.
Nearly a year after it closed, new operators Cassandra and Justin Birdd will reopen the Treehouse Gift and Home store in Onalaska on Wednesday. And the gifts and home decor store at 9546 E. 16 Frontage Road will have its grand opening celebration Friday and Saturday.