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Owens-Illinois, Inc.

Owens-Illinois, Inc.


One Michael Owens Way
Perrysburg, Ohio 43551-2999
U.S.A.
Telephone: (567) 336-5000
Fax: (567) 336-8450
Web site: http://www.o-i.com

Public Company
Founded:
1903 as The Owens Bottle Machine Company
Incorporated: 1907
Employees: 28,200
Sales: $7.42 billion (2006)
Stock Exchanges: New York
Ticker Symbol: OI
NAIC: 327213 Glass Container Manufacturing; 326160 Plastics Bottle Manufacturing; 326199 All Other Plastics Product Manufacturing

Owens-Illinois, Inc., is the world's largest manufacturer of glass containers, with market leading positions in North America, South America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region. The company, which does business as simply O-I, produces glass containers in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and colors for beer, spirits, wine, tea, juice, and other beverages, as well as food products and pharmaceuticals. Nearly 90 percent of O-I's revenues stem from glass. The remaining revenue is generated from the company's plastics packaging operations, which specialize in plastic containers for prescriptions and healthcare products plus plastics closures of the child-resistant, tamper-evident, and dispensing sorts. With more than 100 manufacturing plants in 23 countries, an increasingly global O-I generates only about 38 percent of its sales in North America; Europe, in fact, is the company's largest market, generating more than 40 percent of revenues.

EARLY HISTORY

The Toledo-based company was incorporated in Ohio in 1907 as The Owens Bottle Machine Company, the successor to a New Jersey firm of the same name founded in 1903. In 1916 the company's stock was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The company name was changed to The Owens Bottle Company in 1919. The firm took the name Owens-Illinois Glass Company following the 1929 merger of Owens Bottle and the Illinois Glass Company of Alton, Illinois, a small manufacturer of glass products for the drug and medical fields. Like most can and bottle making companies, Owens-Illinois weathered the years of the Great Depression without a production slowdown. Throughout the 20th century the container industry as a whole proved itself to be almost unaffected by dramatic swings in the economy.

In 1935 Owens-Illinois acquired the Libbey-Glass Company and entered the consumer tableware field. The Libbey division was responsible for making tumblers, glass pitchers, dishes, and bowls. Soon afterward Owens began conducting experiments with glass fibers, learning that one of its chief competitors, Corning Glass, was doing similar research. The two firms agreed to cooperate and formed Owens-Corning Fiberglas in 1938. Development of marketable fiberglass products quickly followed. Corning and Owens, with their virtual monopoly on fiberglass technology, profited greatly. Following a 1949 antitrust ruling that barred Corning and Owens from controlling Owens-Corning, the joint venture was taken public in 1952, with shares distributed, one-third each, to Owens, Corning, and the public. Subsequently, both Owens-Illinois and Corning Glass sold their shares in Owens-Corning.

During the period immediately following World War II, Owens-Illinois remained primarily a glassmaker, its few deviations from the bottle business being limited to those areas on the immediate periphery of glass containers. This was all soon to change, however. A number of antitrust rulings in the late 1940s restricted companies such as Owens-Illinois from increasing market share through wholesale acquisitions of subsidiaries in their respective industries. Growth, it seemed, would have to come from fields outside glass.

Meanwhile, from 1948 through 1958, Owens-Illinois made asbestos pipe and boiler insulation under the brand Kaylo. Though it sold this fairly small business to Owens-Corning in 1958, the company's production of an asbestos-laden product would result in extended litigation starting in the 1980s.

POSTWAR DIVERSIFICATION

The first significant diversification move came in 1956 when Owens purchased the National Container Corporation, the nation's third largest box maker at the time. The move into forest products, though gradual, was as predictable as it was necessary. It made good economic sense to make a forest products company part of the Owens-Illinois holdings. Not only was the parent firm supplied cardboard boxes at reduced rates, but the paper and pulp sector turned profits of its own.

In the 1950s Owens-Illinois took another step outside the glass container field, into a promising new area: plastics. The company had since 1932 made plastic caps and closures, but up until the mid-1950s the technology for making plastic containers was not available. This changed very quickly.

Most popular at that time was the plastic squeeze-bottle, which could be used as a container for prepared mustard and other sauces. Owens-Illinois, however, directed its energy toward semirigid plastic containers, and this strategy was successful. In 1958 Owens-Illinois persuaded a number of large bleach and laundry detergent companies to switch to the new bottles. The plastic bottles were immediately popular with consumers and continued to gain favor during succeeding decades. Each year plastic containers claimed a more substantial share of counter space in U.S. supermarkets.

Despite the important advances in paper and plastics, the company was still very much committed to glass manufacturing. The 1960s were years of tremendous growth in both can and bottle manufacturing. Although the two industries were rivals for the growing consumer beverage market, there was enough soft drink and beer business for all the container companies. The intense competition was for the lion's share, and the initial demand for the new pop-top can seemed to relegate glass containers to a distant second place.

Then the ever bothersome returnable bottle, with its thick glass and mandatory deposit, gave way to the lighter "one-way" bottle. The new construction ushered in a renaissance for the glass industry, allowing it to challenge the can industry more effectively. Since the one-way bottle was not returned for refilling, it could be made of thinner glass. This meant production cost and production time were reduced, thereby increasing profit margins. Although many industry analysts thought the glass beverage container was destined to failure in the early 1960s, it did not surrender its market share to the pull-tab can; bottle sales tripled that decade.

Still, Owens-Illinois was aware that diversification efforts would have to be accelerated if growth was to continue. The burgeoning of the beverage market during the 1960s was not to be repeated, and expansion in glass manufacturing slowed considerably. The company involved itself in such far-removed fields as sugar cane farming in the Bahamas and phosphate rock mining in Florida. During the late 1960s Lily Tulip Cups, maker of everything from wax-lined milk cartons to disposable cups, was acquired. Moves such as these prompted Owens-Illinois to drop the word "glass" from its corporate name in 1965, becoming Owens-Illinois, Inc.

COMPANY PERSPECTIVES


The O-I Mission: Lead our industry in innovation, profitability and sustainable growth. Transform ourselves into a vibrant, modern, high intensity and global growth enterprise. Win in the marketplace and with society via competitiveness and a highly ethical business approach.

MODERNIZING FACILITIES

As beverage sales leveled off in the 1970s, the container industry found itself in the midst of a worldwide recession. Many large can and bottle customers, which included large breweries and soft drink companies, began manufacturing their own containers. Many can and bottle manufacturers had unwisely increased the size of their container-producing facilities and were soon confronted with overcapacity, an unwieldy workforce, and tumbling prices. The problem was particularly acute in bottle manufacturing, where production was more labor-intensive.

Owens-Illinois attempted to solve this problem through technology, investing in new industrial equipment that could make 20 bottles in the time it used to take to make six, and therefore cutting labor costs. Also, the company dedicated more factory space, often entire plants, to single product lines for one customer. These were stopgap measures, however, and did not solve the overall problem. Wholesale modernization was necessary.

As Owens-Illinois entered the 1980s its production costs advantage, once the envy of the industry, had been eroded. While the company developed revolutionary new container machinery, it allowed the majority of its conventional glass plants to deteriorate. Edwin D. Dodd, the company's chief executive officer, divested marginal interests, which were draining resources and performing poorly, and supervised a $911 million four-year plant modernization program.

KEY DATES


1903:
The Owens Bottle Machine Company is founded in Toledo, Ohio.
1907:
Company is incorporated.
1916:
Company's stock begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
1919:
Company changes its name to The Owens Bottle Company.
1929:
Owens merges with the Illinois Glass Company, forming Owens-Illinois Glass Company.
1932:
Company begins producing plastic closures.
1935:
Owens-Illinois acquires Libbey-Glass Company, maker of consumer tablewear.
1938:
Owens-Illinois and Corning Glass form a joint venture, Owens-Corning Fiberglas.
1952:
Owens-Corning Fiberglas is taken public; Owens-Illinois later sells its remaining Owens-Corning shares.
1956:
Company diversifies into forest products through purchase of National Container Corporation.
1958:
Owens-Illinois begins production of plastic containers.
1965:
Company drops the word glass from its corporate name, becoming Owens-Illinois, Inc.
1987:
Owens-Illinois is taken private through a leveraged buyout led by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company (KKR); forest products division is sold.
1988:
Company acquires Brockway, Inc., a major Florida-based glass container maker.
1991:
KKR takes Owens-Illinois public once again.
1994:
Libbey Glass is spun off as Libbey Inc.
1998:
Owens-Illinois acquires the worldwide glass and plastics packaging businesses of the U.K. firm BTR plc for $3.6 billion.
2004:
BSN Glasspack, S.A., Europe's second largest glass container manufacturer, is acquired; company divests its blow-molded plastic container operations.
2005:
Company begins doing business globally as O-I.
2006:
Headquarters are shifted to Perrysburg, a Toledo suburb.
2007:
O-I announces a plan to explore the sale of its remaining plastics packaging operations.

More importantly, the company's attitude toward its own industry changed, particularly regarding bottle manufacturing. Historically a large volume dealer concerned with maintaining its huge market share, Owens-Illinois began to emphasize profit margins rather than its share of the bottle manufacturing market. Unprofitable plants, even relatively new ones, were closed or sold; production of the two-way returnable bottle was discontinued in favor of the exclusive manufacture of the "one-way" bottle; and the minimum order level was raised while the customer base was reduced to a number of large-volume, blue-chip customers. The results of this policy were impressive. Capacity was reduced by 24 percent and the workforce was cut by 30 percent. Owens-Illinois was again able to reclaim its productive edge over competitors.

Owens-Illinois's regard for the natural environment drew the attention and praise of consumer advocate Ralph Nader. In his 1971 study on water pollution, Nader cited Owens-Illinois as the industrial company with the best record on environmental issues. The compliment was well-deserved. The company's glass factories were among the safest and cleanest in the business; it led the industry in recycling; and it advocated a national system of resource recovery to deal with the mounting solid-waste problem.

Owens-Illinois's environmental policies came about largely through the work of a former chief executive officer, Raymond Mulford, who died in 1973. He had encouraged community participation on behalf of his staff and factory workers and devoted nearly half of his time in later years to social and environmental programs. Most company plants were located in small towns, and Mulford insisted they be an asset, not a liability, to the community. This meant confronting the issue of pollution control long before it was a national concern.

By the early 1980s the modernized Owens-Illinois company was the most formidable member of the glass container industry. It outproduced its competitors by 33 percent. Yet, to increase profit margins and efficiency, company operations were streamlined. The company invested heavily in research and developed production methods that reduced the labor content of a finished glass product from 40 percent to 20 percent. A total of 48 plants were closed and 17,000 workers laid off. The jobs of 46,000 other employees, however, were saved.

Many of Owens-Illinois's rivals did not spend the money necessary to compete. Thatcher Glass, once number two in the industry, went bankrupt in 1981, its failure the product of a poorly executed leveraged buyout (LBO) and an unwillingness to rebuild old furnaces and install new technology. Other manufacturers, such as Anchor-Hocking and Glass Containers Corporation, found themselves in similar predicaments.

Robert Lanigan, the CEO of Owens-Illinois during the 1980s, emphasized the manufacture of plastic bottles and the increasingly popular plastic-shield glass bottle. He also continued the diversification program and acquired two nursing home chains and the Alliance Mortgage Company, a mortgage banking concern. Owens-Illinois's policies were aimed at reducing the company's vulnerability to a takeover. Because the container industry was a mature, slow-growth one, return on stockholder's equity was, in the mid-1980s, less than 10 percent. Thus Owens-Illinois's stock price was well below book value; at the same time, it had an attractive annual cash flow of $300 million.

KKR LEVERAGED BUYOUT IN 1987

In the end, Lanigan's efforts could not stave off a takeover. On December 11, 1986, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company (KKR), a holding company specializing in taking firms private, offered to purchase Owens-Illinois for $55 per share. Owens-Illinois refused the offer and threatened to initiate a reorganization, including the sale of over $1 billion in assets, in order to protect the company from subsequent takeover attempts. KKR responded by raising its bid to $60 per share. When investment houses acting on behalf of Owens-Illinois failed to find buyers willing to outbid KKR, Owens-Illinois officials were forced to negotiate.

In mid-February 1987 Owens-Illinois announced that it had agreed to be acquired by a KKR subsidiary, the Oil Acquisition Corporation, for $60.50 per share, or about $3.6 billion. In order to finance the leveraged buyout a number of banks agreed to extend a short-term, or "bridge," loan of $600 million to KKR, to be paid back over 18 months through an issue of high-yield bonds.

KKR had first established a relationship with Owens-Illinois in 1981, when it purchased cupmaker Lily Tulip from Owens-Illinois. While some members of the Owens-Illinois board opposed the takeover (and opposed becoming a private company), it was generally agreed that the short-term interests of the stockholders were served.

Over the next few years KKR-led Owens-Illinois divested several noncore operations, in part to pay down the hefty $4.4 billion debt on the company books following the LBO and in part because a prime reason to diversify, fending off raiders, was moot. In addition to jettisoning the mortgage banking unit, Owens-Illinois sold its forest products division to Great Northern Nekoosa Corporation in 1987 and spun off its healthcare businesses in 1991 as Health Care and Retirement Corporation at a loss of $123.1 million.

Meanwhile, the company moved to significantly bolster its share of the U.S. glass container market through a $750 million 1987 acquisition of Jacksonville, Florida-based Brockway, Inc. The merger of two of the three largest U.S. glass container makers was initially blocked by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which contended that the combination would create a company with too much control of the market, with a 38 percent share. Owens-Illinois took its case to federal court, winning an appeal in 1988. The following year, however, an FTC administrative law judge ruled that the company should be forced to sell Brockway, leading to another Owens-Illinois appeal. Finally, in March 1992 the chairman of the FTC overturned the earlier ruling, allowing the acquisition to stand.

Somewhat ironically, in December 1991 a federal jury had found that Owens-Illinois and Brockway (along with Dart Industries Inc.) had conspired to fix prices on glass containers in the 1970s and 1980s. A settlement on the damages was soon reached out of court, with the terms not disclosed.

PUBLIC AGAIN IN 1991

In December 1991 KKR took Owens-Illinois public once again, through an initial public offering (IPO) that raised about $1.3 billion. The proceeds were used to further pay down debt, which by 1993 stood at $2.5 billion. KKR maintained a stake of about 26 percent into the early 21st century.

Over the next several years after the IPO, Owens-Illinois concentrated on building up its core glass container and plastics packaging operations. Much of the growth would come in the form of acquisitions, particularly overseas, but the company also spent more than $1.5 billion on capital expenditures from 1993 through 1997 to improve productivity and increase capacity of existing facilities. The company's involvement in the plastics industry also expanded, evolving into a plastics group producing containers, closures, prescription containers, labels, and multipack carriers for beverage bottles. The 1992 acquisition of Specialty Packaging Products, Inc., brought Owens-Illinois a leading U.S. manufacturer of trigger sprayers and finger pumps, with annual sales of $100 million.

During the mid-1990s the company continued to affirm its concentration on glass containers and plastics packaging through several strategic divestments. In 1994 and 1995 it sold its specialty glass segment. Also in 1994 Libbey Glass was spun off, becoming the publicly traded Libbey Inc. Owens-Illinois in December 1993 sold 51 percent of specialty packaging and laboratory equipment maker Kimble Glass Inc. to Gerresheimer Glas AG. It sold the remaining 49 percent stake to Gerresheimer in March 1997.

GLOBAL EXPANSION

A serious international presence began in 1993 with an expansion of South American operations, leading to the company's capture of the number one position in glass containers on that continent. Another top position, in India, was gained in 1994 through the acquisition of glass container maker Ballarpur Industries. Three years later Owens-Illinois spent about $586 million for AVIR S.p.A., the largest manufacturer of glass containers in Italy. By this time the company also held leading positions in this segment in the United Kingdom, Poland, Hungary, Finland, and Estonia, and had gained the number two position overall in Europe.

Back home, Owens-Illinois paid about $125 million in February 1997 to acquire the glass container assets of Anchor Glass Container Corporation, in the process increasing its share of the U.S. market to more than 40 percent. Also during 1997 the company completed a major refinancing, which included the retirement of about $1.9 billion in high-cost debt. In April 1998 Owens-Illinois paid $3.6 billion in cash for the worldwide glass and plastics packaging businesses of BTR plc of the United Kingdom, in the largest acquisition in company history. Added thereby to the Owens-Illinois empire was ACI Glass Packaging, the only maker of glass containers in Australia and New Zealand, with additional operations in China and Indonesia; and U.S.based Continental PET Technologies, a leading supplier of plastic food and drink containers in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and such emerging markets as Brazil, China, Hungary, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia. The Commission of the European Communities approved the purchase but with the stipulation that Owens-Illinois sell BTR's glass container operations in the United Kingdom, known as Rockware Group Limited.

Throughout the 1990s the company had to contend with ongoing asbestos litigation stemming from its Kaylo insulation business conducted from 1948 to 1958. By the end of 1997 Owens-Illinois had settled claims involving about 210,000 claimants, with an average payment per claim of $4,200. The company had itself sued more than two dozen insurance companies who had refused to cover these claims. By 1997 Owens-Illinois had reached settlements with a number of these insurers, resulting in about $308.4 million in coverage for the company. It expected to receive substantial additional payments as the remaining suits reached settlements. Owens-Illinois was still a named defendant in asbestos claims involving about 14,000 claimants by the end of 1997, and new claims were filed each year, although the number was steadily decreasing.

Even prior to the acquisition of BTR's packaging units, Owens-Illinois had more than doubled its sales outside the United States. By 1999 non-U.S. revenue accounted for 42 percent of overall company revenue, which reached a record $5.52 billion. That year, the company sold Rockware Group to Ardagh plc, an Irish glass container manufacturer, for £240 million ($390 million).

NARROWING FOCUS TO GLASS CONTAINERS

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Owens-Illinois completed a number of acquisitions of smaller glass container and plastics packaging businesses in a variety of countries, further globalizing its operations. One of the most significant deals during this period was the October 2001, $150 million purchase of the Canadian glass container assets of Consumers Packaging Inc., an acquisition that instantly gave Owens-Illinois an 80 percent share of the glass container market in Canada. Also in 2001, Owens-Illinois sold Harbor Capital Advisors, Inc., its asset-management unit, to the Dutch firm Robeco Groep N.V. for approximately $490 million. Prompting this divestment were the company's strained finances. While attempting to manage a debt load that stood at $5.85 billion at the end of 2000, leading to interest payments that year of $486.7 million, Owens-Illinois continued to contend with its asbestos hangover. The number of cases was actually surging at this time, forcing the company to set aside an additional $550 million to cover its asbestos liabilities and legal fees. This pushed the firm into a net loss for 2000 of $269.7 million.

In both 2002 and 2003 Owens-Illinois further increased its asbestos liability reserve, by $475 million and $450 million, respectively. These actions helped drop the company back into the red those years, after $356.6 million in profits were earned in 2001. In the fourth quarter of 2003 the company divested its plastic trigger sprayers and finger pumps manufacturing operations, which had been deemed noncore and thereby expendable. At the end of the year Joseph H. Lemieux retired after a 13-year stint as CEO and 46 years of overall service. In the industry, Lemieux was generally viewed as a capable though not dynamic leader.

Early in 2004, while operating under interim leadership, Owens-Illinois reached a deal to acquire BSN Glasspack, S.A., Europe's second largest glass container manufacturer (after Compagnie de Saint-Gobain) with plants in France, Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands and annual revenues of approximately $1.6 billion. Shepherding this deal to completion was Steven R. McCracken, brought onboard as president and CEO in April 2004, and the first outsider to head the firm. McCracken, who had previously spent 30 years at du Pont, succeeded Lemieux as chairman as well in May. One month later, the BSN deal was brought to a close at a cost of $625 million in cash plus the assumption of $650 million in debt. Already the leading maker of glass containers in North America, South America, and the Asia-Pacific region, Owens-Illinois ranked number one in Europe as well. To help offset the costs of this acquisition, and further narrow its focus on glass containers, Owens-Illinois sold its blow-molded plastic container operations to York, Pennsylvania-based Graham Packaging Company for $1.2 billion in cash.

The two blockbuster deals of 2004 significantly altered the company's revenue mix. While Owens-Illinois was still involved in the plastics industry, making containers for prescriptions and healthcare products along with plastics closures, the portion of revenues generated by the plastics packaging operations was cut from 31 percent to 12 percent. The firm's international glass container operations, meanwhile, had grown to generate 57 percent of total revenues, up from 38 percent. Still contributing 31 percent of revenues were the North American glass container operations. In another significant development for the company, KKR sold nearly all of its remaining stake in Owens-Illinois in December 2004. The sale reduced the investment firm's stake to less than 2 percent, a holding further slashed in 2005, when the last of the KKR directors resigned from the Owens-Illinois board.

The McCracken era brought more change in April 2005 when the company announced that it would begin doing business around the world as simply O-I. This move was part of the leader's efforts to transform the firm from its historical structure as a holding company into more of a global enterprise. The legal name, however, remained Owens-Illinois, Inc. Shortly after making this announcement, O-I released plans to shift its headquarters from the downtown Toledo tower it had called home since 1981 to a campus-style site in suburban Perrysburg where it had long operated a research facility. The new headquarters were officially opened in August 2006.

McCracken's first full year in the lead brought a mixed bag of results. On the one hand, revenues in 2005 jumped 15.5 percent, hitting a record $7.19 billion; payouts for asbestos-related claims were down; and the firm managed to trim its net debt (total debt minus cash and short-term investments) to the lowest level in seven years. On the other hand, O-I suffered throughout the year from high costs for energy and raw materials, and the firm posted another net loss, of $558.6 million, thanks to $936 million in special charges. Nearly $500 million of the charges was taken to write down the value of the company's Asia-Pacific glass operations. O-I also set aside an additional $135 million for its asbestos liability reserve. With this latest addition, O-I had since 1993 incurred nearly $3 billion in asbestos liabilities, before insurance recoveries.

Late in 2006 McCracken resigned from the company a few months after undergoing surgery for stomach cancer. His successor, Albert Stroucken (pronounced Strew-kin), was a native of the Netherlands who had spent 29 years at Bayer A.G. before being named chairman and CEO of H.B. Fuller Company, a maker of adhesives, sealants, coatings, and other specialty chemical products based in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1998. Stroucken indicated his determination to turn O-I into a consistently profitable company by announcing in January 2007 that the firm was exploring a possible sale of its remaining plastics packaging operations. Such a move would enable O-I to focus solely on its core glass container business and further pay down a debt load that many observers viewed as still too high, and perhaps usher in a new era at a company that had managed to survive through a change-filled century-plus history.

Updated, David E. Salamie

PRINCIPAL SUBSIDIARIES

Owens-Illinois Group, Inc.; OI Health Care Holding Corp.; OI General Finance Inc.; OI Plastic Products FTS Inc.; Owens-Illinois Healthcare Packaging Inc.; Owens-Illinois Prescription Products Inc.; OI General FTS Inc.; Owens-Brockway Packaging, Inc.; Owens-Brockway Glass Container Inc.; Owens-Illinois (Australia) Pty. Ltd.; Owens-Illinois do Brasil S.A. (Brazil); O-I Canada Corp.; Wuhan Owens Glass Container Company Ltd. (China); ACI Guangdong Glass Company Ltd. (China); ACI Shanghai Glass Company Ltd. (China); ACI Tianjin Mould Company Ltd. (China); OI Tinajin Glass Co. Ltd. (China); CMC S.A. (Colombia); Cristaleria del Ecuador, S.A.; A/S Jarvakandi Klaas (Estonia); Karhulan Lasi Oy (Finland); BSN Glasspack (France); BSN Glasspack Beteiligungs & Verwaltungs GmbH (Germany); United Hungarian Glass Containers Kft. (Hungary); Owens-Illinois Kft. (Hungary); PT Kangar Consolidated Industries (Indonesia); OI Italia S.r.l. (Italy); UAB Karhulan Lasi Oy (Lithuania); BSN Glasspack N.V. (Netherlands); Owens-Illinois (NZ) Ltd. (New Zealand); LLC Novgorod Steklo (Russia); BSN Glasspack Espana (Spain); United Glass Group Ltd. (U.K.); Owens-Illinois de Venezuela, C. A.

PRINCIPAL COMPETITORS

Compagnie de Saint-Gobain; Anchor Glass Container Corporation; Ardagh plc; Vetropack Holding AG; Amcor Limited; Rexam PLC.

FURTHER READING

Anders, George, "Owens-Illinois Plans Initial Stock Offer That Could Raise As Much As $960 Million," Wall Street Journal, October 16, 1991, p. A2.

Berman, Dennis K., "Owens-Illinois Plans to Acquire BSN Glasspack for $625 Million," Wall Street Journal, February 18, 2004, p. B8.

Brading, Maria, "Owens-Illinois to Sell a Line for $1.15 Billion," Wall Street Journal, July 17, 1987.

Brickey, Homer, "After 32 Years, Idea for Name Takes Hold," Toledo Blade, May 15, 2005, p. D1.

, "Awakening a Sleeping Giant: New CEO Charged with Reinvigorating O-I," Toledo Blade, August 1, 2004, p. D1.

, "Incoming O-I Chief Says New Products Essential," Toledo Blade, November 16, 2006.

, "Move to a New Headquarters Would Be Sixth in 102 Years for O-I," Toledo Blade, February 3, 2005, p. B6.

, "Owens-Illinois Leaving Toledo," Toledo Blade, May 6, 2005, p. A1.

, "With KKR Gone, O-I Again Master of Its Destiny," Toledo Blade, September 20, 2005, p. B7.

Freedman, Alix M., "Owens-Illinois Seeks Brockway for $750 Million," Wall Street Journal, September 18, 1987.

Henderson, Angelo B., "Owens-Illinois Agrees to Acquire Glass, Plastic Line of BTR for $3.6 Billion," Wall Street Journal, March 2, 1998, pp. A3, A13.

Klayman, Ben, "O-I to Acquire Italian Maker of Glass Containers," Toledo Blade, December 17, 1996, p. 32.

McKinnon, Julie M., "O-I to Sell Operations That Include Plants in Fremont, Findlay," Toledo Blade, July 29, 2004, p. A1.

Miller, Michael W., and John Bussey, "Owens-Illinois Accepts Offer from Kohlberg," Wall Street Journal, February 11, 1987.

Norman, James R., "Smart Timing," Forbes, November 25, 1991, pp. 170+.

"Owens-Illinois: A Cautious Venture Beyond Glass," Business Week, July 4, 1983, pp. 84+.

"Owens-Illinois: Giving Up Market Share to Improve Profits," Business Week, May 11, 1981, pp. 81+.

Pakulski, Gary T., "Incoming O-I Leader Known for Bold Moves," Toledo Blade, December 3, 2006.

, "O-I Chief Steps Down; New CEO Appointed," Toledo Blade, November 9, 2006.

, "O-I Looks to End Role in Plastics Industry," Toledo Blade, January 13, 2007.

Paquette, Jack K., The Glassmakers: A History of Owens-Illinois Incorporated, Toledo, Ohio: Trumpeting Angel Press, 1994, 413 p.

Pryweller, Joseph, "For Post-Sale O-I, Plastics Still on the Bill," Plastics News, November 1, 2004, p. 9.

Schiller, Zachary, "Owens-Illinois: An Offer That's Hard to Refuse," Business Week, December 29, 1986, pp. 34+.

Skrabec, Quentin R., Jr., Michael Owens and the Glass Industry, Gretna, La.: Pelican Publishing, 2006, 256 p.

Willoughby, Jack, "Excellence Isn't Enough," Forbes, June 17, 1985, pp. 104+.

, "Owens-Illinois: Wishful Recap," Financial World, May 14, 1991, pp. 21+.

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Salamie, David. "Owens-Illinois, Inc." International Directory of Company Histories, Volume 85. 2007. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Owens-Illinois, Inc.

Owens-Illinois, Inc.

One Sea Gate
Toledo, Ohio 43666
U.S.A.
(419) 247-5000
Fax: (419) 247-1132
Web site: http://www.owens-illinois.com

Public Company
Incorporated: 1907 as The Owens Bottle Machine Corporation
Employees: 32,400
Sales: $4.66 billion (1997)
Stock Exchanges: New York
Ticker Symbol: OI
SICs: 3089 Plastic Products, Not Elsewhere Classified; 3221 Glass Containers

Owens-Illinois, Inc. is one of the largest manufacturers of glass containers and plastic packaging in the world. About half of the glass containers made worldwide are made by Owens-Illinois. It holds the top position in glass containers in the United States, North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and India, and the number two position in Europe (behind Compagnie de Saint-Gobain). In 1997, 71 of overall sales stemmed from glass. The remaining revenue was generated from the companys plastics group, which is a leading worldwide maker of plastics packaging, including containers, closures, prescription containers, labels, and multipack carriers for beverage bottles. With 144 manufacturing plants in 24 countries, an increasingly global Owens-Illinois generates about 37 percent of sales outside the United States.

Early History

The Toledo-based company was incorporated in Ohio in 1907 as The Owens Bottle Machine Corporation, the successor to a New Jersey firm of the same name founded in 1903. It took the name Owens-Illinois Glass Company following the 1929 merger of Owens Bottle and the Illinois Glass Company of Alton, Illinois, a small manufacturer of glass products for the drug and medical fields. Like most can and bottle making companies, Owens-Illinois weathered the years of the Great Depression without a production slowdown. Throughout the 20th century the container industry as a whole proved itself to be almost unaffected by dramatic swings in the economy.

In 1935 Owens-Illinois acquired the Libbey-Glass Company and entered the consumer tableware field. The Libbey division was responsible for making tumblers, glass pitchers, dishes, and bowls. Soon afterward Owens began conducting experiments with glass fibers, learning that one of its chief competitors, Corning Glass, was doing similar research. The two firms agreed to cooperate and formed Owens-Corning Fiberglass in 1938. Development of marketable fiberglass products quickly followed. Corning and Owens, with their virtual monopoly on fiberglass technology, profited greatly. Following a 1949 antitrust ruling that barred Corning and Owens from controlling Owens-Corning, the joint venture was taken public in 1952, with shares distributed, one-third each, to Owens, Corning, and the public. Subsequently, both Owens-Illinois and Corning Glass sold their shares in Owens-Corning.

During the period immediately following World War II, Owens-Illinois remained primarily a glassmaker, its few deviations from the bottle business being limited to those areas on the immediate periphery of glass containers. This was all soon to change, however. A number of antitrust rulings in the late 1940s restricted companies such as Owens-Illinois from increasing market share through wholesale acquisitions of subsidiaries in their respective industries. Growth, it seemed, would have to come from fields outside glass.

Meanwhile, from 1948 through 1958, Owens-Illinois made asbestos pipe and boiler insulation under the brand Kaylo. Though it sold this fairly small business to Owens-Corning in 1958, the companys production of an asbestos-laden product would result in extended litigation in the 1980s and 1990s.

Diversification in the 1950s and 1960s

The first significant diversification move came in 1956 when Owens purchased the National Container Corporation, Americas third largest box maker at the time. The move into forest products, though gradual, was as predictable as it was necessary. It made good economic sense to make a forest products company part of the Owens-Illinois holdings. Not only was the parent firm supplied cardboard boxes at reduced rates, but the paper and pulp sector turned profits of its own.

In the 1950s Owens-Illinois took another step outside the glass container field, into a promising new areaplastics. The company had for some time made plastic caps and closures, but up until the mid-1950s the technology for making plastic containers was not available. This changed very quickly.

Most popular at that time was the plastic squeeze-bottle which could be used as a container for prepared mustard and other sauces. Owens-Illinois, however, directed its energy toward semirigid plastic containers, and this strategy was successful. In 1958 Owens-Illinois persuaded a number of large bleach and laundry detergent companies to switch to the new bottles. The plastic bottles were immediately popular with consumers and continued to gain favor during succeeding decades. Each year plastic containers claimed a more substantial share of counter space in American supermarkets.

Despite the important advances in paper and plastics, the company was still very much committed to glass manufacturing. The 1960s were years of tremendous growth in both can and bottle manufacturing. Although the two industries were rivals for the growing consumer beverage market, there was enough soft beverage and beer business for all the container companies. The intense competition was for the lions share, and the initial demand for the new pop-top can seemed to relegate glass containers to a distant second place.

Then the ever bothersome returnable bottle, with its thick glass and mandatory deposit, gave way to the lighter one-way bottle. The new construction ushered in a renaissance for the glass industry, allowing it to challenge the can industry more effectively. Since the one-way bottle was not returned for refilling it could be made of thinner glass. This meant production cost and production time were reduced, thereby increasing profit margins. Although many industry analysts thought the glass beverage container was destined to failure in the early 1960s it did not surrender its market share to the pull-tab can; bottle sales tripled that decade.

Still, Owens-Illinois was aware that diversification efforts would have to be accelerated if growth was to continue. The burgeoning of the beverage market during the 1960s was not to be repeated, and expansion in glass manufacturing slowed considerably. The company involved itself in such far-removed fields as sugar cane farming in the Bahamas and phosphate rock mining in Florida. During the late 1960s Lily Tulip Cups, maker of everything from wax-lined milk cartons to disposable cups, was acquired. Moves such as these prompted Owens-Illinois to drop the word glass from its corporate name, becoming Owens-Illinois, Inc.

Modernizing Facilities in the 1970s

As beverage sales leveled off in the 1970s, the container industry found itself in the midst of a worldwide recession. Many large can and bottle customers, which included large breweries and soft drink companies, began manufacturing their own containers. Many can and bottle manufacturers had unwisely increased the size of their container-producing facilities and were now confronted with overcapacity, an unwieldy workforce, and tumbling prices. The problem was particularly acute in bottle manufacturing where production was more labor-intensive.

Owens-Illinois attempted to solve this problem through technology, investing in new industrial equipment that could make 20 bottles in the time it used to take to make six, and therefore cutting labor costs. Also, the company dedicated more factory space, often entire plants, to single product lines for one customer. However, these were stop-gap measures and did not solve the overall problem. Wholesale modernization was necessary.

As Owens-Illinois entered the 1980s its production costs advantage, once the envy of the industry, had been eroded. While the company developed revolutionary new container machinery, it allowed the majority of its conventional glass plants to deteriorate. Edwin D. Dodd, the companys chief executive officer, divested marginal interests, which were draining resources and performing poorly, and supervised a $911 million four-year plant modernization program.

Company Perspectives:

Owens-Illinois is one of the worlds leading manufacturers of packaging products. It is the largest manufacturer of glass containers in North America, South America, and India, and the second largest in Europe. Approximately one of every two glass containers made worldwide is made by Owens-Illinois, its affiliates, or its licensees. The companys plastics group manufactures a wide variety of plastic packaging items including containers, closures, trigger sprayers, finger pumps, prescription containers, labels, and multipack carriers for beverage containers.

Owens-Illinois is the leader in technology, the high-productivity/low cost producer, and the leading supplier in almost all of the markets it serves.

More importantly, the companys attitude toward its own industry changed, particularly regarding bottle manufacturing. Historically a large volume dealer concerned with maintaining its huge market share, Owens-Illinois began to emphasize profit margins rather than its share of the bottle manufacturing market. Unprofitable plants, even relatively new ones, were closed or sold; production of the two-way returnable bottle was discontinued in favor of the exclusive manufacture of the one-way bottle; and the minimum order level was raised while the customer base was reduced to a number of large-volume, blue-chip customers. The results of this policy were impressive. Capacity was reduced by 24 percent and the workforce was cut by 30 percent. Owens-Illinois was again able to reclaim its productive edge over competitors.

Owens-Illinoiss regard for the natural environment drew the attention and praise of consumer advocate Ralph Nader. In his 1971 study on water pollution, Nader cited Owens-Illinois as the industrial company with the best record on environmental issues. The compliment was well-deserved. The companys glass factories were among the safest and cleanest in the business; it led the industry in recycling; and it advocated a national system of resource recovery to deal with the mounting solid waste problem.

Owens-Illinois environmental policies came about largely through the work of a former chief executive officer, Raymond Mulford, who died in 1973. He had encouraged community participation on behalf of his staff and factory workers and devoted nearly half of his time in later years to social and environmental programs. Most company plants were located in small towns, and Mulford insisted they be an asset, not a liability, to the community. This meant confronting the issue of pollution control long before it was a national concern.

By the early 1980s the modernized Owens-Illinois company was the most formidable member of the glass container industry. It outproduced its competitors by 33 percent. Yet, to increase profit margins and efficiency, company operations were streamlined. The company invested heavily in research and developed production methods that reduced the labor content of a finished glass product from 40 percent to 20 percent. A total of 48 plants were closed and 17,000 workers laid off. The jobs of 46,000 other employees, however, were saved.

Many of Owens-Illinoiss rivals did not spend the money necessary to compete. Thatcher Glass, once number two in the industry, went bankrupt in 1981, its failure the product of a poorly executed leveraged buyout and an unwillingness to rebuild old furnaces and install new technology. Other manufacturers, such as Anchor-Hocking and Glass Containers Corporation, found themselves in similar predicaments.

Robert Lanigan, the CEO of Owens-Illinois during the 1980s, emphasized the manufacture of plastic bottles and the increasingly popular plastic-shield glass bottle. He also continued the diversification program and acquired two nursing home chains and the Alliance Mortgage Company, a mortgage banking concern. Owens-Illinoiss policies were aimed at reducing the companys vulnerability to a takeover. Since the container industry was a mature, slow-growth one, return on stockholders equity was, in the mid-1980s, less than ten percent. Thus Owens-Illinoiss stock price was well below book value; at the same time, it had an attractive annual cash flow of $300 million.

KKR Leveraged Buyout in 1987

In the end, Lanigans efforts could not stave off a takeover. On December 11, 1986, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company (KKR), a holding company specializing in taking firms private, offered to purchase Owens-Illinois for $55 per share. Owens-Illinois refused the offer and threatened to initiate a reorganization, including the sale of over $1 billion in assets, in order to protect the company from subsequent takeover attempts. KKR responded by raising its bid to $60 per share. When investment houses acting on behalf of Owens-Illinois failed to find buyers willing to outbid KKR, Owens-Illinois officials were forced to negotiate.

In mid-February 1987, Owens-Illinois announced that it had agreed to be acquired by a KKR subsidiary, the Oil Acquisition Corporation, for $60.50 per share, or about $3.6 billion. In order to finance the leveraged buyout a number of banks agreed to extend a short-term, or bridge, loan of $600 million to KKR, to be paid back over 18 months through an issue of high-yield bonds.

KKR had first established a relationship with Owens-Illinois in 1981, when it purchased cupmaker Lily Tulip from Owens-Illinois. While some members of the Owens-Illinois board opposed the takeover (and opposed becoming a private company), it was generally agreed that the short-term interests of the stockholders were served.

Over the next few years KKR-led Owens-Illinois divested several noncore operations, in part to pay down the hefty $4.4 billion debt on the company books following the LBO and in part because a prime reason to diversifyfending off raiderswas now moot. In addition to jettisoning the forest products and mortgage banking unit, Owens-Illinois sold its healthcare businesses in 1991 for $369 million.

Meanwhile, the company moved to significantly bolster its share of the U.S. glass container market through a $750 million 1987 acquisition of Jacksonville, Florida-based Brockway Inc. The merger of two of the three largest U.S. glass container makers was initially blocked by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which contended that the combination would create a company with too much control of the market, with a 38 percent share. Owens-Illinois took its case to federal court, winning an appeal in 1988. The following year, however, an FTC administrative law judge ruled that the company should be forced to sell Brockway, leading to another Owens-Illinois appeal. Finally, in March 1992 the chairman of the FTC overturned the earlier ruling, allowing the acquisition to stand.

Somewhat ironically, in December 1991 a federal jury had found that Owens-Illinois and Brockway (along with Dart Industries Inc.) had conspired to fix prices on glass containers in the 1970s and 1980s. A settlement on the damages was soon reached out of court, with the terms not disclosed.

Public Again in 1991

In December 1991 KKR took Owens-Illinois public once again, through an initial public offering (IPO) that raised about $1.3 billion. The proceeds were used to further pay down debt, which by 1993 stood at $2.5 billion. KKR maintained a stake of about 26 percent through the late 1990s.

Over the next several years after the IPO, Owens-Illinois concentrated on building up its core glass container and plastic packaging operations. Much of the growth would come in the form of acquisitionsparticularly overseasbut the company also spent more than $1.5 billion in capital expenditures from 1993 through 1997 to improve productivity and increase capacity of existing facilities. The companys involvement in the plastics industry also expanded, evolving into a plastics group producing containers, closures, prescription containers, labels, and multipack carriers for beverage bottles. The 1992 acquisition of Specialty Packaging Products, Inc. brought Owens-Illinois a leading U.S. manufacturer of trigger sprayers and finger pumps, with annual sales of $100 million.

During the mid-1990s the company continued to affirm its concentration on glass containers and plastic packaging through several strategic divestments. In 1994 and 1995 it sold off its specialty glass segment. Also in 1994 Libbey Glass was spun off, becoming the publicly traded Libbey Inc. Owens-Illinois in December 1993 sold 51 percent of specialty packaging and laboratory equipment maker Kimble Glass Inc. to Gerresheimer Glas AG. It sold the remaining 49 percent stake to Gerresheimer in March 1997.

Mid-1990s Global Expansion

A serious international presence began in 1993 with an expansion of South American operations, leading to the companys capture of the number one position in glass containers on that continent. Another top position, in India, was gained in 1994 through the acquisition of glass container maker Ballarpur Industries. Three years later Owens-Illinois spent about $586 million for AVIR S.p.A., the largest manufacturer of glass containers in Italy. By this time the company also held leading positions in this segment in the United Kingdom, Poland, Hungary, Finland, Estonia, and had gained the number two position overall in Europe.

Back home, Owens-Illinois paid about $125 million in February 1997 to acquire the glass container assets of Anchor Glass Container Corporation, in the process increasing its share of the U.S. market to more than 40 percent. Also during 1997 the company completed a major refinancing, which included the retirement of about $1.9 billion in high-cost debt. In April 1998 Owens-Illinois paid $3.6 billion in cash for the worldwide glass and plastics packaging businesses of BTR pic of the United Kingdom, in the largest acquisition in company history. Added thereby to the Owens-Illinois empire was ACI Glass Packaging, the only maker of glass containers in Australia and New Zealand, with additional operations in China and Indonesia; and U.S.-based Continental PET Technologies, a leading supplier of plastic food and drink containers in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and such emerging markets as Brazil, China, Hungary, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia. The Commission of the European Communities approved the purchase but with the stipulation that Owens-Illinois sell BTRs glass container operations in the United Kingdom, known as Rockware Glass.

Throughout the 1990s the company had to contend with ongoing asbestos litigation stemming from its Kaylo insulation business of 1948-58. By the end of 1997 Owens-Illinois had settled claims involving about 210,000 claimants, with an average payment per claim of $4,200. The company had itself sued more than two dozen insurance companies who had refused to cover these claims. By 1997 Owens-Illinois had reached settlements with a number of these insurers, resulting in about $308.4 million in coverage for the company. It expected to receive substantial additional payments as the remaining suits reached settlements. Owens-Illinois was still a named defendant in asbestos claims involving about 14,000 claimants by the end of 1997, and new claims were filed each year, although the number was steadily decreasing.

Even prior to the acquisition of BTRs packaging units, Owens-Illinois had more than doubled its sales outside the United States. In 1997 non-U.S. revenue accounted for 37 percent of overall company revenue, which had reached a record $4.66 billion. With its concentration on the core areas of glass containers and plastic packaging and with its aggressive program of international expansion, Owens-Illinois appeared to have in place a solid plan for 21st-century growth.

Principal Subsidiaries

Owens-Illinois Group, Inc.; OI Health Care Holding Corp.; OI General Finance Inc.; OI Closure FTS Inc.; OI Plastic Products FTS Inc.; Owens-Illinois Prescription Products Inc.; Owens-Brockway Plastic Products Inc.; Owens-Illinois Labels Inc.; Owens-Brockway Packaging, Inc.; OI lone STS Inc.; Owens-Brockway Glass Container Inc. The company also lists subsidiaries in the following countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Bermuda, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, India, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Spain, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela.

Further Reading

Henderson, Angelo B., Owens-Illinois Agrees to Acquire Glass, Plastic Line of BTR for $3.6 Billion, Wall Street Journal, March 2, 1998, pp. A13.

Norman, James R., Smart Timing, Forbes, November 25, 1991, pp. 170 +.

Willoughby, Jack, Owens-Illinois: Wishful Recap, Financial World, May 14, 1991, pp. 21 +.

updated by David E. Salamie

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Salamie, David. "Owens-Illinois, Inc." International Directory of Company Histories. 1999. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Owens-Illinois, Inc.

Owens-Illinois, Inc.

One Sea Gate
Toledo, Ohio 43666
U.S.A.
(419) 247-5000

Wholly-owned subsidiary of Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Company
Incorporated:
December 16, 1907 as The Owens Bottle
Machine Corporation
Employees: 44,048
Sales: $3.5 billion

Owens-Illinois is the worlds largest manufacturer of glass bottles and other glass products such as television picture tubes, telescope lenses, laboratory equipment and tableware. It controls nearly 33% of both the domestic and foreign bottle markets, a market share comparable to those of American Can and Continental, the two largest companies in the can industry. With $3.5 billion in revenues, it dwarfs even its closest competitors, Anchor-Hocking and Glass Containers Corporation.

While glass sales constitute close to 50% of its total sales, Owens-Illinois also relies heavily on its non-glass operations, both in and outside the container business. The company is number one in plastics and the production of corrugated shipping boxes. It is also a major manufacturer of plywood and has recently involved itself in health services and financial consulting. With diverse interests worldwide Owens-Illinois is a model modern corporation.

The Toledo-based company was incorporated in 1907. It was the product of a merger between the Owens Bottle Company and the Illinois Glass Company of Alton, Illinois, a small manufacturer of glass products for the drug and medical fields. Like most can and bottle making companies, Owens-Illinois weathered the years of the Depression without a production slowdown. Throughout the 20th century the container industry as a whole has proved itself to be almost unaffected by dramatic swings in the economy.

In 1935 Owens-Illinois acquired the Libbey-Glass Company and entered the consumer tableware field. The Libbey division was responsible for making tumblers, glass pitchers, dishes and bowls. Soon afterward Owens began conducting experiments with glass fibers, and learned that one of its chief competitors, Corning Glass, was doing similar research. The two firms agreed to cooperate and formed Owens-Corning Fiberglas in 1938. Development of marketable fiberglas products quickly followed. Corning and Owens, with their virtual monopoly on fiberglass technology, profited greatly. At the present time, fiberglas in loose constructions is weaved into textiles and insulation material (the famous pink cotton candy foam that lines Americas attics); and when packed tightly in rigid sheets it is used, among other things, to manufacture car and boat bodies.

During the period immediately following World War II, Owens-Illinois remained primarily a glass maker, its few deviations from the bottle business being limited to those areas on the immediate periphery of glass containers. This was all soon to change. A number of anti-trust rulings in the late 1940s restricted companies like Owens-Illinois from increasing market share through wholesale acquisitions of subsidiaries in their respective industries. Growth, it seemed would have to come from fields outside glass.

The first significant move came in 1956 when Owens purchased National Container Corporation, Americas third-largest box maker at the time. The move into forest products, though gradual, was as predictable as it was necessary. It made good economic sense to make a forest products company part of the Owens-Illinois holdings. Not only was the parent firm supplied cardboard boxes at reduced rates, but the paper and pulp sector turned profits of its own. Lily-Tulip, the companys consumer paper division, makes everything from wax-lined milk cartons to disposable cups.

In the 1950s Owens-Illinois took another step outside the glass container field, into a promising new area-plastics. The company had for some time made plastic caps and closures, but up until the mid-1950s the technology for making plastic containers was not available. This changed very fast.

Most popular at that time was the plastic squeeze-bottle which could be used as a container for prepared mustard and other sauces. Owens-Illinois, however, directed its energy toward semi-rigid plastic containers. The strategy was successful. In 1958 Owens-Illinois persuaded a number of large bleach and laundry detergent companies to switch to the new bottles. They were immediately popular with consumers and have continued to be popular until the present time. Each year plastic containers claim a more substantial share of counter space in American supermarkets.

Despite the important advances in paper and plastics, the company was still very much committed to glass manufacturing. The 1960s were years of tremendous growth in both can and bottle manufacturing. Although the two industries were rivals for the growing consumer beverage market, there was enough soft beverage and beer business for all the container companies. The intense competition was for the lions share, and the initial demand for the new pop-top can seemed to relegate glass containers to a distant second place.

However, the ever-bothersome returnable bottle, with its thick glass and mandatory deposit, gave way to the lighter one-way bottle. The new construction ushered in a renaissance for the glass industry, allowing it to challenge the can industry more effectively. Since the one-way bottle was not returned for refilling it could be made of thinner glass. This meant production cost and production time were reduced, thereby increasing profit margins. Although many industry analysts thought the glass beverage container was destined to failure in the early 1960s it did not surrender its market share to the pull-tab can; bottle sales tripled during that decade.

Still, Owens-Illinois was aware that diversification efforts would have to be accelerated if growth was to continue. The 1960s burgeoning of the beverage market was not to be repeated and expansion in glass manufacturing slowed considerably. The company involved itself in such far-removed fields as sugar cane farming in the Bahamas and phosphate rock mining in Florida. Moves such as these prompted Owens-Illinois to drop the word glass from its corporate name.

As beverage sales leveled off in the 1970s, the container industry found itself in the midst of a worldwide recession. Many large can and bottle customers, which included large breweries and soft drink companies, began manufacturing their own containers. Many can and bottle manufacturers had unwisely increased the size of their container-producing facilities and were now confronted with over-capacity, an unwieldy workforce, and tumbling prices. The problem was particularly acute in bottle manufacturing where production is more labor intensive.

Owens-Illinois attempted to solve this problem technologically, investing in new industrial equipment that could make 20 bottles in the time it used to take to make six, and therefore cutting labor costs. Also, the company dedicated more factory space, often entire plants, to single product lines for one customer. However, these were stop-gap measures and did not solve the overall problem. Wholesale modernization was necessary.

As Owens-Illinois entered the 1980s its production costs advantage, once the envy of the industry, had been eroded. While the company developed revolutionary new container machinery, it allowed the majority of is conventional glass plants to deteriorate. Edwin D. Dodd, the companys chief executive officer, divested marginal interests which were draining resources and performing poorly, and supervised a $911 million four-year plant modernization program.

More importantly, the companys attitude toward its own industry changed, particularly regarding bottle manufacturing. Historically a large volume dealer concerned with maintaining its huge market share, Owen-Illinois began to emphasize profit margins rather than its portion of the bottle manufacturing market. Unprofitable plants, even relatively new ones, were closed or sold, production of the two-way returnable bottle was discontinued in favor of the exclusive manufacture of the one-way bottle; and the minimum order level was raised while the customer base was reduced to a number of large-volume, blue-chip customers. The results of this policy were impressive. Capacity was reduced by 24% and the work force was cut by 30%. Owens-Illinois was again able to reclaim its productive edge over competitors.

Owens-Illinois regard for the natural environment has drawn the attention and praise of consumer advocate Ralph Nader. In his 1971 study on water pollution, Nader cited Owens-Illinois as the industrial company with the best record on environmental issues. The compliment was well deserved. Its glass factories are among the safest and cleanest in the business; it leads the industry in recycling; and has advocated a national system of resource recovery to deal with the mounting solid waste problem.

Owens-Illinois environmental policies came about largely through the work of a former chief executive officer, Raymond Mulford who died in 1973. He encouraged community participation on behalf of his staff and factory workers, and devoted nearly half of his time in later years to social and environmental programs. Most company plants are located in small towns and Mulford insisted they be an asset, not a liability, to the community. This meant confronting the issue of pollution control long before it was a national concern.

The modernized Owens-Illinois company is the most formidable member of the glass container industry. It presently out-produces its competitors by 33%. Yet, to increase profit margins and efficiency, company operations were streamlined. The company invested heavily in research and developed production methods that reduced the labor content of a finished glass product from 40% to 20%. A total of 48 plants were closed and 17,000 workers laid off. The jobs of 46,000 other employees, however, were saved.

Many of Owens-Illinois rivals have not spent the money necessary to compete. Thatcher Glass, once number two in the industry, went bankrupt in 1981. Its failure was the product of a poorly executed leveraged buy-out and an unwillingness to rebuild old furnaces and install new technology. Other manufacturers, such as Anchor-Hocking and Glass Containers Corporation have found themselves in similar predicaments.

Robert Lanigan, the present chief executive officer of Owens-Illinois, has emphasized the manufacture of plastic bottles and the increasingly popular plastic-shield glass bottle. He has also continued the diversification program and has acquired two nursing home chains and the Alliance Mortgage Company. Owens-Illinois policies have been aimed at reducing the companys vulnerability to a takeover. Since the container industry is a mature, slow-growth one, return on stockholders equity was, in the mid-1980s, less than 10%. Thus its stock price was well below book value; at the same time, it had an attractive annual cash flow of $300 million.

While Lanigans efforts have undoubtedly benefitted the company, he has not succeeded in avoiding a takeover. On December 11, 1986, Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Company, a holding company which specializes in taking firms private, offered to purchase Owens-Illinois for $55 per share. Owens-Illinois refused the offer and threatened to initiate a reorganization, including the sale of over $1 billion in assets, in order to protect the company from subsequent takeover attempts. Kohlberg, Kravis responded by raising its bid to $60 per share. When investment houses acting on behalf of Owens-Illinois failed to find buyers willing to outbid Kohlberg, Kravis, Owens-Illinois officials were forced to negotiate.

In mid-February 1987, Owens-Illinois announced that it had agreed to be acquired by a Kohlberg, Kravis subsidiary, the Oil Acquisition Corporation, for $60.50 per share, or about $3.6 billion. In order to finance the buyout a number of banks agreed to extend a short-term, or bridge loan of $600 million to Kohlberg, Kravis, to be paid back over 18 months through an issue of high-yield bonds.

Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Company first established a relationship with Owens-Illinois in 1981 when it purchased the Lily Tulip Company from Owens-Illinois. While some members of the Owens-Illinois board opposed the takeover (and becoming a private company), it was generally agreed that the short-term interests of the stockholders were served. At the time of the takeover, there was speculation that Kohlberg, Kravis would be forced to sell certain divisions of Owens-Illinois in order to finance the debt it incurred as a result of the acquisition.

Principal Subsidiaries

Marinette, Tomahawk & Western Railroad Co.; Owens-Illinois Development Corp.; Owens Illinois Finance Corp.; Sabine River and Northern Railroad Co.; Treitler-Owens, Inc.; Valdosta Southern Railroad Co.; Automatic Inspection Devices; Universal Materials Inc.; Andover Controls; Health Care and Retirement Corp. of America; Prudent Supply Inc.; L.E. Smith Glass Co.; Alliance Mortgage Co. The company also lists subsidiaries in the following countries: Brazil, Bermuda, France, Indonesia, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Venezuela, West Germany, and the United Kingdom.

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"Owens-Illinois, Inc." International Directory of Company Histories. 1988. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Owens-Illinois, Inc." International Directory of Company Histories. 1988. Retrieved September 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2840500231.html

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