Business related to Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke files for bankruptcy

ESP Printing, Inc., of Kent, a business associated with Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke, filed Oct. 9 for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Seattle.

ESP Printing, Inc., of Kent, a business associated with Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke, filed Oct. 9 for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Seattle.

The company owes $6.45 million to a number of creditors, including $4.7 million to HomeStreet Bank of Seattle and $672,000 to xpedx, of Atlanta, a distributor of printing papers, graphic supplies and equipment. ESP Printing also owes money to several Kent businesses, including $61,000 to Cullen Bindery.

The company is still open for business. Seattle-based McCallum Print Group has emerged as a potential buyer for it.

David Cooke, the late husband of Suzette Cooke, owned and served as president of ESP Printing until he committed suicide June 17 at the couple's home. Cooke said she thought she had ownership in the business until she found out differently after her husband's death.

“According to my attorneys, as long as he was alive, I was a co-owner,” Cooke said in a phone interview last week. “That all changed when he died. He did not pass on his stock shares.”

David Cooke did not have a will, and Suzette Cooke did not own any stock in the company.

“I don't own it,” Cooke said of her current status with ESP Printing. “I was an investor. My savings went into the business. But he (David Cooke) never put anyone but himself down as a stockholder.”

Cooke said Mark Williams, the secretary-treasurer for ESP Printing, was left in charge of the company.

But Cooke, who is running for reelection, earlier in her campaign claimed on her Web site (www.suzettecooke.com) that she was an owner of the company. That statement, which she had changed last week to the past tense after being asked about it by a reporter, originally read: “Suzette owns ESP Printing, Inc. in Kent. Together with her late husband, David, they built ESP into the third largest family-run commercial printing business in the Puget Sound area.”

The explanation is now a single sentence: “With her late husband David, Suzette owned ESP Printing, Inc. in Kent.”

Cook claimed that when she originally formulated the wording on the site, she thought she had ownership in the business. But, she added, she found out differently after her husband's death.

“According to my attorneys, as long as he was alive, I was a co-owner,” Cooke said of her late husband. “That all changed when he died. He did not pass on his stock shares.”

Mark Reinhardt, an attorney who represents Cooke in her role as personal representative of David Cooke's estate, said Suzette Cooke had an indirect ownership though her marriage to David Cooke, because of the state's community-property laws.

“She did not manage it; she was not an officer or director or shareholder,” Reinhardt said in a phone interview Tuesday. “But she had an indirect interest through community property from marriage.”

In Cooke's statement in the Voters' Pamphlet, she also referred to her background as “26 years owning a Kent business.”

Cooke said that statement remains accurate because she had a role in ESP Printing for 26 years.

She worked as a sales executive at the printing company from 2004 to 2005. Otherwise, she has worked at jobs outside of the company, including three terms as a state representative, as well as executive director of the Kent Chamber of Commerce and president of the Greater Renton Chamber of Commerce.

Cooke acknowledged the complexity of the matter.

“It'd be nice to have it straight in my mind,” Cooke said. “I had been an owner in the business, but not after he died.”

Meanwhile, ESP Printing could have a new owner in a few weeks.

“A buyer for the business would save 50 jobs and keep the company open,” said Donald Bailey, a Seattle attorney who represents ESP Printing in the bankruptcy case.

Other potential buyers have until Nov. 4 to bid on the company, Bailey said. If other bids are received, an auction for the company will be held on Nov. 6.

“This is an effort to keep the business going and preserve jobs and the customer base,” Bailey said. “They have a good and loyal customer base. This would be better than a shutdown and people laid off from their jobs.”

Cooke said she doesn't believe what she has stated about her ownership in the printing business will influence whether voters pick her or not.

“I think they will evaluate how I am performing as a mayor,” she said. “My delivery of services in this position is what's critical.”


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentnews.us.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://kentnews.us/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Madeline Goldsmith. COURTESY PHOTO
No suspect yet in July 2023 Kent murder of Madeline Goldsmith

Someone fatally shot 18-year-old Kentwood High graduate as she sat in vehicle near Lake Meridian

t
Police bust mother, daughter in Kent for retail crime spree

Two reportedly joined one other woman in 3-state crime ring taking women’s clothing from Lululemon

t
Reith Road in Kent to get two new roundabouts this year

City Council approves $4.28 million bid; project to start in late May or early June

t
Puget Sound Fire's Teddy Bear Clinic set for May 18 in Kent

Annual event provides free checkups for teddy bears and children

t
Overturned military vehicle causes I-5 backup near Kent, Federal Way

Wednesday, April 10 in northbound lanes near South 272nd Street

t
Kent Police Blotter: March 26 to April 7

Incidents include robberies, burglaries, shooting

t
State Patrol seek witnesses to I-5 hit-and-run crash in Kent

Collision at about 11:30 p.m. Monday, April 8 along northbound I-5 near State Route 516

t
Riverbend Golf Complex in Kent turns profit for 2nd consecutive year

City-owned facility brings in about $600,000 in 2023

Kent Police recovered nearly 800 catalytic converters in a 2021 bust. File photo
New state legislation fights catalytic converter theft

Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill on March 26 adding new regulations… Continue reading

t
Firefighting Diversity & Recruitment Workshop set for May 11 in Kent

Event designed to help potential candidates get jobs

t
Kentwood High grad's legacy of love lives on through organ donation

Madeline Goldsmith one of 344 organ donors honored by Gov. Jay Inslee in Olympia

Flowers, framed photos, plush toys and a QR code to the GoFundMe pages of the families grace the memorial site after the March 19 crash. Photo by Bailey Jo Josie/.
Judge, lawyers debate low bail for Kent driver in fatal Renton crash

Judge explains reduction from $1 million to $100,000, which was posted by family of Chase Jones