S2/Swell’s editorial staff quickly recruited by other top post houses, as it prepares to shutter

Now that all the jobs in-house have been completed, S2/Swell is wrapping up its 29 years of business in its eerily quiet space in the NBC Tower.

The big post houses quickly recruited S2’s talented editors and assistants, leaving only a handful of the 35 employees to help reorganize under Chapter 11.

Attesting to their talent and reputation, S2’s editorial staff had offers from Cutters, Machete, Outsider, Avenue and Filmmakers immediately following news of the closing.

Some editors and assistants moved into permanent positions, while others opted to freelance.

“We have no idea when we’ll be out of this space,” said president Monna O’Brien, who remains along on the premises with producer Julie Hudgins and a few others to complete the transition of archived client materials to new destinations.

The reorganized company will move into smaller, as yet undesignated offices, to handle the one piece of business that remains with the company?an on-going series for the Chicago Public Schools, handled by director/editor John Anderson.

Ironically, Anderson had joined S2 earlier this year after Superior Street, in which he’d been a partner, declared bankruptcy after 10 years in business.

In announcing Chapter 11 earlier this month, owner Michael Topel said he decided to reorganize “to have a chance to sort things out and see where we want to go, or even if we want to stay in the business as it stands today.”

The company billed $5 million last year, a tumble from its high-flying years of $10 million in gross sales and 135 employees.

S2, which had been known as Swell for 27 of its 29 years in business, reported gross sales of $5 million in 2005. At its peak, Swell had gross sales of $10 million, employed 135 and sprawled over three elegant floors in the NBC Tower.

“The business model for which we were configured is now obsolete; it doesn’t match the current business situation,” said Topel, son of the company founder, the late Walt Topel.

“If I hadn’t come to this conclusion now, I’d get to the point where we wouldn’t be able to settle in an orderly way.”

The near-$1 million-a-year rental on the 23,000-sq. ft. full 18th floor in the Tower was, however, was a factor in the decision to close. The status of the lease will be resolved in the Chapter 11 process.

Topel noted that the landlord had been “tough” in previous negotiations, noting Swell had to pay a hefty cancellation fee the last time the company reduced its rental space.

The inability to negotiate better terms had led to the demise of two other notable postproduction companies in the past. Superior Street declared bankruptcy last January and Jack Tohtz’ Skyview shuttered in 2000.

Looking back Topel saw the downslide start with the crippling SAG strike of 2000, the high-tech stocks crashing shortly thereafter, followed a year later by 9/11 and the Iraqi war.

He complimented Monna O’Brien on having done “outstanding work” during her two-year tenure as president. Shortly after O’Brien, a former top agency executive producer, joined Swell, its name was changed to S2 to reflect a new beginning and new direction for the esteemed company.

Swell’s phone is 312/464-8000.