(MEC Victoria/Google)

Mountain Equipment Co-Op announced on Monday that it will be transitioning away from a co-operative structure after it is bought by an American investment firm.

Los Angeles-based Kingswood Capital Management LP will be acquiring substantially all of MEC’s assets through the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).

MEC Board Chair Judi Richardson said in a statement that the COVID-19 pandemic was a major factor in the announcement.

“After careful consideration of all viable options, the Board made this difficult decision,” said Richardson.

“Despite significant progress on a thoughtful turnaround strategy undertaken by new leadership, no strategy could have anticipated or overcome the impact of the global pandemic on our business.”

The company also said on Monday that MEC had been struggling financially for years leading up to the pandemic and had explored other options including refinancing from lenders and funding from government support programs.

Representatives from MEC and Kingswood assured customers that the purchase would preserve the company brand and identity.

“MEC is an iconic brand founded on strong values and has a loyal following,” said Kingswood’s Managing Partner, Alex Wolf.

“We have tremendous respect for those values and the loyal membership and are honored to be partnering with Canadian operating partners who will represent us on the ground in Canada working with MEC’s management team following the closing to ensure a bright future for MEC.”

The announcement drew strong criticism online, with one MEC member starting a petition called “Save MEC”.

Paul Finch, the MEC member behind the petition, wrote that the acquisition announcement came “without the permission of the MEC membership, or any kind of meaningful consultation.”

As of Tuesday at 10:30 a.m., the petition had received over 6,500 signatures.

Finch also created a “Save MEC” Facebook group which had attracted nearly 1,500 members by Tuesday morning.

Some members of the group pointed out that MEC’s co-operative rules allow for the removal of board members by special resolution, requiring “a 75 percent majority of the total votes cast on the resolution by members eligible to vote.”

Victoria Buzz has reached out to representatives for MEC for comment on these issues.