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Chris-Craft Industries, Inc.

Chris-Craft Industries, Inc.

767 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10153
U.S.A.
Telephone: (212) 421-0200
Fax: (212) 759-7653
Web site: http://www.chriscraft.net

Public Company
Incorporated: 1928 as National Automotive Fibers, Inc.
Employees: 1,317
Sales: $467.1 million (1998)
Stock Exchanges: New York Pacific
Ticker Symbol: CCN
NAICs: 51312 Television Broadcasting; 326199 All Other Plastics Product Manufacturing; 326113 Unsupported Plastics Film and Sheet (Except Packaging) Manufacturing

Chris-Craft Industries, Inc., is involved primarily with television broadcasting. Through its 79.96 percent ownership of subsidiary BHC Communications, Inc., and the BHC subsidiary United Television, Inc., Chris-Craft operates ten television stations across the United States. The New York-based Chris-Craft also possesses a 50 percent interest in United Paramount Network (UPN), which the company formed in 1994 with Paramount Television Group, a division of media conglomerate Viacom Inc., owner of the remaining 50 percent. Chris-Craft also operates an industrial products division, which is largely involved with the manufacture of plastic flexible film products, including water-soluble hospital laundry bags used by the health care industry. The industrial products division also services the chemical industry. Chairman and president Herbert J. Siegel, who has led the company since 1968, owns about 45 percent of Chris-Craft.

Early History Marked by Measured Growth: 1920s-1950s

The company that eventually became Chris-Craft Industries was founded in 1928 in Detroit as National Automotive Fibers, Inc. It manufactured upholstery, interior trim and carpeting, plastic products, and foam rubber for major Detroit automakers, especially Chrysler, Ford, and Studebaker-Packard. The company was successful but remained a relatively minor supplier to the automotive industry. National Automotive Fibers acquired the Montrose Chemical Company of San Francisco in the 1940s, but it nonetheless remained almost wholly dependent on the automobile, and its revenues often fluctuated wildly, reflecting the fortunes of the auto industry.

National Automotive Fibers operated during and after World War II with moderate success, but in 1956 its fortunes changed dramatically when the company lost more than $1 million on sales of $46 million. The company, however, attracted the attention of Paul V. Shields, senior partner of the Wall Street investment firm Shields & Co., who had determined that its troubles resulted from overdependence on the auto industry. Shields acquired National Automotive Fibers in a bold takeover move, trimmed it of marginally profitable products, and diversified its operations. While the sales revenues of National Automotive dropped to $23 million in 1957, profits rose to a record $1 million, and by 1960 the firm had accumulated assets of $10 million. By then the company had entered into oil and gas operations as well as television and radio broadcasting. In 1959, to emphasize its new identity as a diverse manufacturer, the companys name was changed to NAFI Corp.

Expansion into Boat Manufacturing in the 1960s

NAFIs financial health provided the means in 1960 to acquire the Chris-Craft Company, a boat manufacturer worth $50 million. Chris-Craft was privately owned by the descendants of its founders, Christopher Columbus Smith and his brother Henry. During the 1880s the Smiths were backwoodsmen in St. Clair County, Michigan, who depended on duck hunting for a living. The two brothers supplemented their incomes by acting as guides for wealthy businessmen and professionals from Detroit who vacationed in the unspoiled environment of St. Clair County. To the brothers surprise, the tourists admired the simple, sturdy lines of the Smiths homemade vessels, and they soon found themselves selling the boats to eager buyers. In 1884 they built a boathouse, and boatbuilding soon supplanted the hunting business.

Fifteen years later business was booming in the Smith boat-house on the St. Clair River in Algonac. From simple duck boats the brothers had expanded their product line to include canoes, rowboats, and even a few sailboats. So successful were they that their business had become the towns major industry. The first gasoline-powered boat on the Great Lakes was a Smith craft, as were the fastest speedboat and the worlds first hydroplane. By 1930 the boatbuilding firm was called Chris-Craft Corporation, and at the time of its acquisition by NAFI in 1960, it was the largest manufacturer of small boats in the world.

The acquisition of Chris-Craft involved a great deal of negotiation because the companys president, Harsen Smith, was opposed to the sale. Harsens objections were rooted in his strong loyalty to the company and the desire to maintain its dynastic heritage. Harsen controlled only about 25 percent of the company, however, and the rest of the Smith family was in favor of selling. The companys valuation at approximately $50 million came as a huge surprise to the family and afforded them the opportunity to be selective in choosing a buyer.

On January 18, 1960, Joseph Flannery, who was the assistant to NAFIs Shields, happened to encounter Owen Smith, Chris-Crafts majority stockholder, at a boat show in New York. Owen indicated that he was amenable to the sale of Chris-Craft, and a series of high-level negotiations began, with the reluctant Harsen Smith the recipient of competing offers between NAFI and a rival bidder, Brunswick Corporation. Within a month of the meeting between Owen Smith and Flannery, NAFI had arranged a complicated buyout of Chris-Craft, with the sale price being $40 million. The sale was predicated on Shieldss willingness to agree to a hands-off management style with Chris-Craft. The 1960s proved to be the most successful period in the boat manufacturing companys history, so successful, in fact, that in 1962 NAFIs stockholders agreed to change the companys name to Chris-Craft Industries, Inc., in order to capitalize on the divisions success.

While the success of Chris-Crafts marine operations would eventually decline, the stimulus it injected into the parent company was enormous. Except for the manufacture of carpet fibers, insulation, and chemical products, virtually all identification with the old National Automotive Fibers company had disappeared. Thanks to Shieldss diversification strategy, NAFIs annual revenues had long since been stabilized.

Diversification and Growth under New Leadership: 1970s and 1980s

Throughout the 1960s the Baldwin-Montrose Chemical Co., Inc., a chemical manufacturing company, had invested increasingly in Chris-Craft, and it eventually became the biggest stockholder. Herbert J. Siegel, chairman of Baldwin-Montrose, led a takeover of Chris-Craft, which was completed in 1968. Siegel then assumed the chairmanship of Chris-Craft.

In 1968 the Chris-Craft headquarters were moved from Oakland, California, where they had been since 1962, to New York. Siegel set about streamlining and reorganizing the company, which consisted of three main operations: the boat division; the fast-growing television broadcasting division, with stations in Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Portland, Oregon; and the small industrial division, consisting of Montrose Chemical of California, the worlds largest producer of DDT until the federal government banned it in 1972, and Chris-Craft Industrial Products, Inc. The combined sales for 1968 were $89 million.

The 1970s and 1980s saw Chris-Crafts continued expansion into television broadcasting. During the 1970s Chris-Craft invested in the Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., building its holdings to 19 percent of the outstanding common stock by 1980. In 1981 Chris-Craft obtained a 19.5 percent ownership of United Television, Inc. Siegel then formed BHC Communications, Inc., as a holding company for United Television. BHC owned and operated all eight of Chris-Crafts television stations and was the parent company of United Television, Inc. To further focus on expansion in broadcasting, the company sold its boat division in 1981, leasing the Chris-Craft name to the buyer.

In 1984 Warner Communications, Inc., in an attempt to avert a hostile takeover by Australian investor Rupert Murdoch, welcomed Chris-Crafts investment in the company. Siegel traded 42.5 percent of BHC for 19 percent of Warner Communications. In 1989, when Time Inc. merged with Warner Communications to form Time-Warner Inc., Chris-Crafts investment garnered $2.3 billion.

Continued Expansion into Television Broadcasting in the 1990s

In the early 1990s Chris-Craft continued to expand into television broadcasting, acquiring Pinelands, Inc., in August 1992 for $313 million. Pinelands owned WWOR-TV, an independent station that broadcast in a tristate area that included New York City, the second most important television market in the country. By 1992 the company owned and operated six independent and two network-affiliated television stations, and it had become the nations sixth largest television broadcaster and the second largest independent television producer in the country. In addition, Chris-Crafts stations reached approximately 20 percent of the households in the United States.

Company Perspectives:

New technologies and media create new businesses at breathtaking speed, but uncertainty about their future creates widely disparate valuations, not only for those businesses, but for those of their seemingly mundane competitors. We remain patient during these times, and defer significant capital deployment until trends become less uncertain and we become more comfortable with valuations. We believe this approach to be the most prudent way to promote future growth in shareholder value, and it is completely consistent with our long-held management philosophy. Of course, we will continue to investigate growth and expansion opportunities, and look forward to pursuing those that make good business sense, to increase Chris-Crafts value for our shareholders, our viewers and our affiliates.

Chris-Craft took a significant step in the broadcasting market in 1994 when the company announced the formation of a fifth national networkUnited Paramount Networkin cooperation with Viacom Inc.s Paramount Television Group. As part of the agreement, Chris-Craft owned 100 percent of UPN, with Paramount having the option to acquire an equal share through January 15, 1997. The network, targeted toward the young male demographic group, premiered in early 1995 and offered four hours of original prime-time programming per week. The following year original programming was increased to six hours per week.

The new network severely affected Chris-Crafts revenues, and during 1995 and 1996 losses due to the costs of UPN totaled $275.6 million. Although Viacom began to share Chris-Crafts burden in early 1997, when it acquired a 50 percent interest in UPN for $160 million, losses continued to rise. In 1997 UPN losses for Chris-Craft equaled $87.4 million, and the following year the company lost $88.6 million. Despite such dismal figures, Chris-Crafts Siegel continued to support UPN and remained optimistic about the networks potential. Siegel stated in the companys 1998 annual report, UPNs importance to Chris-Craft as a strategic asset remains undiminished. Now in its fifth year, UPNs development, as expected, has been both expensive and uneven. Nonetheless, our commitment to the networks success is unwavering.

UPN continued to drain Chris-Crafts resources in the late 1990s. During the 1997 season the networks ratings were so poor that UPN dropped to sixth place among the major networks. Although the network increased its original programming from three to five nights, UPNs 1998 ratings fell 39 percent from 1997. One new program that debuted in October 1998 set a record for achieving the lowest first-run broadcast rating during prime time. In early 1999 UPN rallied by introducing a new animated comedy based on the popular cartoon series Dilbert. Still, ratings for the 1998 season fell by 30 percent. Between 1995 and 1999 UPN racked up losses of more than $500 million. The network shifted its target audience from season to season, beginning with family-oriented programming, switching to programming designed to appeal to urban viewers, and then aiming for young males.

While Chris-Craft focused on its broadcast division, the industrial division carried on. With a series of improvements, including the upgrading of manufacturing equipment, the introduction of new processing control systems, and strategic capital investments, the industrial division flourished in the late 1990s. Operating income increased 77 percent over 1997 and 1998, and the division enjoyed record earnings in 1998. Increased earnings were also attributed to the streamlining of the division, as unprofitable product lines were discontinued, increasing numbers of international alliances were established, and products with lower margins were de-emphasized.

UPNs declines were somewhat offset by earnings from television stations, and Chris-Craft continued to acquire additional stations. In 1998 Chris-Craft acquired television station WHSW in Baltimore and changed its call letters to WUTB. In 1999 the company completed the acquisition of WRBW in Orlando, bringing the total number of Chris-Crafts television stations to ten. Also that year, Viacom announced plans to purchase CBS Corp. for $37 billion. Because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prohibited companies from owning two broadcast networks, Viacoms announcement raised questions regarding the future of Chris-Craft and Viacoms joint ownership of UPN. In Viacom and Chris-Crafts original agreement, two options for exiting the partnership had been determinedbuying out the other partner or paying for what the partner had invested up to that date and providing funds for the future operation of UPN. Either option would cost Viacom substantial sums of money. Industry analysts agreed that Chris-Craft could emerge the winner and offered other possible scenariosthat Viacom might offer Chris-Craft some of its stations in exchange for severing the partnership or that Chris-Craft might sell Viacoms share to another company.

During the first half of 1999 Chris-Crafts net income dropped by nearly half compared to the same period in 1998, from $13.89 million to $7.47 million. The decline was due in large part to increased UPN losses. Undeterred, Chris-Craft continued to back UPN, expanding its prime-time schedule and developing new programs geared toward young males. A week and a half into the new 1999 season, UPNs ratings were up 20 percent from 1998 ratings, a promising start, and the network was reaching 95 percent of all U.S. households through 186 affiliates. Indeed, Chris-Craft could afford to ride out UPNs shaky and costly beginnings, for the company remained debt-free, with consolidated cash and marketable securities holdings of $1.39 billion as of mid-1999.

Principal Subsidiaries

BHC Communications, Inc. (79.96%); Chris-Craft Industrial Products, Inc.

Key Dates:

1928:
National Automotive Fibers, Inc., is established.
1956:
Paul V. Shields acquires National Automotive Fibers.
1959:
National Automotive Fibers changes its name to NAFI Corp.
1960:
NAFI purchases boat manufacturer Chris-Craft Company.
1962:
NAFI changes its name to Chris-Craft Industries, Inc.
1968:
Baldwin-Montrose Chemical Co., Inc., takes control of Chris-Craft, and Herbert J. Siegel becomes chairman.
1981:
Chris-Craft sells its boat division.
1994:
With Viacom Inc., the company forms United Paramount Network (UPN).
1997:
Chris-Craft sells a 50 percent stake in UPN to Viacom Inc.

Principal Competitors

E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company; National Broadcasting Company, Inc.; Time Warner Inc.

Further Reading

Alexander, Keith L., Chris-Craft May Be Big Winner in Viacom-CBS Merger, USA Today, September 15, 1999, p. B6.

BHC Communications (Acquires Pinelands, Inc.), Wall Street Journal, August 24, 1992, pp. B4(W), B4(E).

FCC Clears a Chris-Craft Unit to Buy WWOR-TV, New York Times, August 20, 1992, p. D4.

Graham, Jefferson, Plummeting UPN Hopes for a Rebound, USA Today, October 26, 1998, p. D3.

Little Movement in Top 25 (Chris-Craft Increased Its Reach from 11% to 18%), Broadcasting & Cable, March 22, 1993, p. 29.

Paul V. Shields Group Acquires Control of Automotive Fibers, Wall Street Journal, September 24, 1956, p. 7.

Peers, Martin, and John R. Wilke, In CBS Merger with Viacom, a Wild Card, Wall Street Journal, September 9, 1999, p. B1.

Rodengen, Jeffrey L., The Legend of Chris-Craft, Fort Lauderdale: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1988, 294 pp.

Roman, Monica, and Jenny Hontz, Viacom Buys Equity Stake in UPN, Variety, December 9, 1996, p. 39.

Sina Dubovoj

updated by Mariko Fujinaka

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"Chris-Craft Industries, Inc.." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Chris-Craft Industries, Inc.

Chris-Craft Industries, Inc.

600 Madison Avenue
New York, New York 10022
U.S.A.
(212) 421-0200
Fax: (212) 935-8462

Public Company
Incorporated: 1928 as National Automotive Fibers, Inc.
Sales: $332 million
Employees: 1,000
Stock Exchanges: New York Pacific
SICs: 4833 Television Broadcasting; 3081 Unsupported Plastics Film & Sheet; 3086 Plastics Foam Products; 2299 Textile Goods, Nec; 3089 Plastics Products Nec

Chris-Craft Industries, Inc., is the owner and operator of eight television stations across the United States, with a significant market share in the greater New York and Los Angeles areas, which are the countrys two largest TV markets. Two of these stations are affiliated with networks, while six are independent. As a result, Chris-Craft is the second largest independent broadcaster in the nation, and the sixth largest TV broadcaster overall. In addition to its television division, which produces over ninety-five percent of the companys revenues, Chris-Craft also has an Industrial Division which manufactures plastic flexible films and contamination control plastic bag products, fiber carpet underlay, and insulation.

Chris-Craft Industries bears virtually no resemblance to the company from which it originated, National Automotive Fibers, Inc., which was founded in 1928 in Detroit. National Automotive Fibers manufactured upholstery, interior trim and carpeting, plastic products, and foam rubber for major Detroit automakers, especially Chrysler, Ford, and Studebaker-Packard. The companys present name was adopted two years after it had acquired the famous Chris-Craft boat manufacturer in 1960, and was retained even after the company divested itself of its boat manufacturing interest in 1981. The company still leases the name to the boat manufacturer.

National Automotive Fibers was successful, but remained a relatively minor supplier to the automobile industry. It had acquired the Montrose Chemical Company of San Francisco in the 1940s, but the company nevertheless remained almost wholly dependent on the automobile industry, and its revenues reflected those of the auto industry, often fluctuating wildly.

National Automotive Fibers, Inc., operated during and after World War II with moderate success, but in 1956 its fortunes changed dramatically when the company lost over $1 million on sales of $46 million. However, the company had attracted the attention of Paul V. Shields, senior partner of the Wall Street investment firm Shields & Co., who had determined that the companys troubles resulted from overdependence on the auto industry. Shields acquired National Automotive Fiber in a bold takeover move, trimmed it of marginally profitable products, and diversified its operations.

While sales revenues of National Automotive dropped to $23 million a year later, profits rose to a record $1 million, and by 1960, the firm (then called NAFI to emphasize its new identity as a diverse manufacturer) had accumulated assets of $10 million. By then NAFI had entered into oil and gas operations, as well as TV and radio broadcasting.

NAFIs financial health provided the means to acquire the Chris-Craft Company, a boat manufacturer worth $50 million. Chris-Craft was privately owned by the descendants of its founders, Christopher Columbus Smith and his brother Henry. During the 1880s the Smiths were backwoodsmen in St. Clair County, Michigan, who depended on duck hunting for a living. The ancestors of todays well-known pleasure boats were the Smiths simple rowboat, built for cruising the St. Clair River.

The two brothers supplemented their incomes by acting as field guides for wealthy businessmen and professionals from Detroit, who vacationed fifty miles away in the unspoiled, natural environment of St. Clair County. To the brothers surprise, these tourists admired the simple, sturdy lines of the Smiths homemade vessels. Soon they found themselves selling the boats to eager buyers. In 1884 they built a boat house, and soon boatbuilding supplanted the business of hunting.

Fifteen years later, business was booming in the Smith boat house on the St. Clair River in Algonac. From simple duck boats the brothers had expanded their product line to include canoes, rowboats, and even a few sailboats. So successful were they that the Smiths business had become the towns major industry. The first gasoline-powered boat on the Great Lakes was a Smith craft, as were the fastest speed boat and the worlds first hydroplane. By 1930 the boat making firm was called Chris-Craft Corporation, and at the time of its acquisition by NAFI in 1960, was the largest manufacturer of small boats in the world.

The acquisition of Chris-Craft involved a great deal of negotiation because the companys president, Harsen Smith, was opposed to the sale. Harsens objections were rooted in his strong loyalty to the company and an urge to maintain its dynastic heritage. Harsen controlled only about 25 percent of the company, however, and the rest of the Smith family was in favor of selling. The companys valuation at approximately $50 million came as a huge surprise to the family and afforded them the opportunity to be selective in choosing a buyer.

On January 18, 1960, Joseph Flannery, who was the assistant to NAFIs president, Paul Shields, happened to encounter Owen Smith, Chris-Crafts majority stockholder, at a boat show in New York. Owen Smith indicated his amenability to Chris-Crafts sale, and a series of high level negotiations began, with the reluctant Harsen Smith the recipient of competing offers between NAFI and a rival bidder, Brunswick Corporation.

Within one month of the chance meeting between Owen Smith and Joseph Flannery, NAFI had arranged a complicated buyout of Chris-Craft with a sale price of $40 million. The sale was predicated on Shieldss willingness to agree to a hands-off management style with Chris-Craft.

The arrangement worked, for the 1960s proved to be the most successful period in the companys historyso successful, in fact, that in 1962, NAFIs stockholders agreed to change the companys name to Chris-Craft Industries, Inc., in order to capitalize on the divisions success.

While the success of Chris-Crafts marine operations would eventually decline, the stimulus it injected into the parent company was enormous. Virtually all identification with the old National Automotive Fibers company disappeared, except for the manufacture of some carpet fiber, insulation, and chemical products. NAFIs annual revenues had stabilized long ago, thanks to Paul Shields diversification strategy.

Throughout the 1960s, the Baldwin-Montrose chemical manufacturing company had invested increasingly in Chris-Craft, until it became Chris-Crafts biggest stockholder. Herbert J. Siegel was the chairman of Baldwin-Montrose who led a takeover of Chris-Craft, completed in 1968. Siegel remained chairman of Chris-Craft from 1968 into the 1990s.

In 1968 Chris-Craft headquarters moved from Oakland, California, where they had been since 1962, to New York. Siegel set about streamlining and re-organizing the company, which consisted of three main operations: the Boat Division; the fast growing Television Broadcasting Division with TV stations in Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Portland, Oregon; and the small Industrial Division, consisting of Montrose Chemical of California (the worlds largest producer of DDT until the federal government banned it in 1972) and Chris-Craft Industrial Products, Inc. Their combined sales for 1968 were $89 million.

The 1970s and 1980s saw the divestment of the Boat Division and Chris-Craft Industries continued expansion into television broadcasting. During the 1970s Chris-Craft invested in Paramount, which provided Chris-Craft ownership of United Television, Inc.. In 1983 Warner Communications, Inc., later Time-Warner, Inc., in an attempt to avert a hostile takeover by Australian investor Rupert Murdoch, welcomed Chris-Crafts investment in the company, enabling it to become Warners biggest stockholder.

The Chris-Craft-Warner venture led to the formation of BHC Communications, a seventy percent owned public subsidiary of Chris-Craft. BHC owned and operated all eight of Chris-Crafts TV broadcasting stations, and was the parent company of United Television, Inc. The remaining thirty percent was owned by Time-Warner, the worlds biggest media company.

In the early 1990s Chris-Craft continued to expand into the television broadcasting arena, acquiring Pinelands, Inc., in August 1992 for $313 million. Pinelands owned WWOR-TV, an independent station which broadcasted in a tri-state area that included the second most important television market in the country, New York City.

Chris-Crafts sales declined during the recession of the early 1990s, but by 1992 they had increased 16 percent over 1991, to $332 million. With its six independent and two network-affiliated TV stations, Chris-Craft had become the nations sixth largest television broadcaster and the second largest independent television producer in the country. During the early 1990s Chris-Crafts stations reached approximately 20 percent of the households in the United States. The far smaller Industrial Products Division of the company manufactured packaging films, contamination control products, carpet fibers, and insulation, and was experiencing vigorous growth and expansion in the United States as well as in Europe with sales of over $1 million.

Principal Subsidiaries

70% BHC Communications (New York, NY); Chris-Craft Industrial Products, Inc. (Gary, IN).

Further Reading

BHC Communications (Acquires Pinelands, Inc.), Wall Street Journal, August 24, 1992, p. B4(W), p. B4(E).

FCC Clears a Chris-Craft Unit to Buy WWOR-TV, New York Times, August 20, 1992, p. D4(L).

Little Movement in Top 25 (Chris-Craft Increased Its Reach from 11% to 18%), Broadcasting & Cable, March 22, 1993, p. 29.

Paul V. Shields Group Acquires Control of Automotive Fibers, Wall Street Journal, September 24, 1956, p. 7.

Pink Pick-Ups (Claster Television in Deal with Chris-Craft/United TV Stations for Pink Panther Cartoon Show), Broadcasting & Cable, January 25, 1993, p. 101.

Rodengen, Jeffrey L., The Legend of Chris-Craft, Fort Lauderdale: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1988, 294 p.

Sina Dubovoj

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"Chris-Craft Industries, Inc.." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Chris-Craft Industries, Inc.." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/chris-craft-industries-inc

"Chris-Craft Industries, Inc.." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/chris-craft-industries-inc