Employees: 4, 600
Sales: $2.62 billion (2006)
Stock Exchanges: New York
Ticker Symbol: POL
NAIC: 325211 Plastics Material and Resin Manufacturing; 325991 Custom Compounding of Purchased Resins; 325132 Synthetic Organic Dye and Pigment Manufacturing; 325998 All Other Miscellaneous Chemical Product and Preparation Manufacturing
PolyOne Corporation is one of North America’s leading producers and distributors of polymer compounds. Major business segments focus on thermoplastic compounds and color and additive concentrates for the plastics industry, and the company also distributes to the North American market a vast array of resins produced by more than 20 major suppliers (including itself). Two joint ventures comprise the firm’s resin and intermediates segment: OxyVinyls, a venture with Occidental
Chemical Corporation, produces polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resins, vinyl chloride monomer, and chloride and caustic soda, and is 24 percent owned by PolyOne; while SunBelt, a venture with Olin Corporation, produces chlorine and caustic soda, and is 50 percent owned by PolyOne. Around two-thirds of the company’s sales are generated domestically, with 17 percent originating in Europe, 11 percent in Canada, and 5 percent in Asia.
PolyOne was formed in August 2000 from the merger of two Cleveland-area firms, M. A. Hanna Company and The Geon Company. Founded in the late 19th century, M. A. Hanna was a major mining company before making a dramatic shift into polymers in the mid-1980s. Geon, which had been spun off from The BFGoodrich Company in March 1993, traced its roots back to Goodrich’s founding of the vinyl plastics industry in 1926.
Marcus Alonzo Hanna, the namesake of M. A. Hanna Company, was born in 1837 on his parents’ Lisbon, Ohio, farm. His father, Dr. Leonard Hanna, moved to Cleveland in 1852 after competition from railroads undermined the family investment in a canal project. After trying a grocery business, Dr. Hanna joined with his brother Robert and another investor in a copper and iron trading venture in the late 1850s. The partners soon expanded operations to include coal mining.
When young “Mark” was expelled from Western Reserve College for distributing a risque flyer at a student event, he went to work for his father as a warehouse clerk. Mark worked as a deckhand and purser on his father’s Great Lakes ships, then joined the Union Army in the Civil War. Dr. Hanna died in 1862 after a long illness, and his minerals trading firm dissolved. At war’s end, Hanna began a courtship with Charlotte Rhodes that launched the company that would keep his name long after it passed from his family’s hands.
Hanna’s future father-in-law, Daniel P. Rhodes, was a rigid Democrat who initially opposed his daughter’s involvement with Hanna, an active Republican. However, when Rhodes’s son left Rhodes & Co. and Hanna made some ill-fated investments, Hanna joined his father-in-law’s pig iron and iron ore business. Hanna aggressively acquired more mines and diversified Rhodes & Co. into lake steamers, docks, warehouses, and shipbuilding. His entry into Rhodes & Co. coincided with a dramatic expansion of the Midwest’s commercial and industrial influence. The company stimulated this growth at its very source: It brought coal from Ohio and Pennsylvania to the shores of Lake Erie to fuel midwestern industries, and shipped iron ore and pig iron to regional steel factories.
Daniel P. Rhodes died in the 1880s, and Hanna inherited the conglomerate that by that time included mining, shipping, street and freight railways, hotels, and a bank. Hanna’s brothers, Howard Melville and Leonard Colton, and a partner, Arnold C. Saunders, renamed the business M. A. Hanna & Company in 1885.
The new company purchased interests in iron ore, coal mines, and blast furnaces. Mark Hanna was soon known for his compelling personality, sharp business sense, and energetic bearing. He became a prominent industrial executive, builder of a shipping line, and owner of Cleveland’s opera house. As his business influence grew, he aspired to political power as well. Hanna purchased the Cleveland Herald newspaper to boost Republican support, and financed the gubernatorial and presidential campaigns of William McKinley. His massive $3.5 million campaign contributions earned him the nickname “Red Boss” (“red” for iron dust and “boss” for his political activities), a U.S. Senate seat, and the rancor of some of the nation’s largest newspapers. Hanna turned the company over to his brothers in 1896 so that he could chair the National Republican Committee full time. He was elected a U.S. senator in 1897, and served until his death in 1904.
Howard M. and Leonard C. Hanna continued on with the family business. Howard would become known as the businessman of the family, and his son would lead the company in the early 20th century. Leonard was remembered more for his civic and philanthropic contributions to the city of Cleveland. Marcus Hanna’s corporate legacy would end with son Daniel R., whose involvement precipitated a leadership crisis at Hanna.
Howard Melville Hanna, Jr., Daniel’s cousin, was groomed for leadership of the family company. When, in 1915, he grew disgusted with Daniel’s playboy lifestyle and apparent lack of commitment to the business, Howard bought out Daniel’s share of the Hanna company. Within the next six years, Leonard C., Howard, Sr., and cousin Daniel all died, leaving Howard, Jr., to steer the Hanna ship virtually alone. The abrupt change in leadership had coincided with lagging earnings, tax hikes, a decline in the coal industry, and lessened demand for iron ore.
We provide value to our customers through our ability to link our knowledge of polymers and formulation technology with our manufacturing and supply chain processes to provide an essential link between large chemical producers (our raw material suppliers) and designers, assemblers and processors of plastics (our customers). We believe that large chemical producers are increasingly outsourcing less-than-railcar business; polymer and additive producers need multiple channels to market; processors continue to outsource compounding; and international companies need suppliers with global reach. Our goal is to provide our customers with specialized material and service solutions through our global reach and product platforms, low-cost manufacturing operations, a fully integrated information technology network, broad market knowledge and raw material procurement leverage. Our end markets are primarily in the building materials, wire and cable, automotive, durable goods, packaging, electrical and electronics, medical and telecommunications markets, as well as many industrial applications.
George M. Humphrey became Hanna Company’s last partner when he invested in the firm in 1922. He had joined the company in 1917 as a legal advisor, and quickly built a promising business and personal relationship with Howard Hanna, Jr. A. C. Saunders continued as a partner until 1922, when the M. A. Hanna Company was incorporated with Matthew Andrews as chairman of the board and Howard M. Hanna, Jr., as president. Humphrey and Hanna used the influx of capital from that first stock offer to encourage growth at the company’s profitable divisions, and sold Hanna’s losing divisions. Their work to promote efficiency during the 1920s helped carry M. A. Hanna through the Great Depression profitably.
When Chairman Matthew Andrews died in 1929, Howard M. Hanna, Jr., was elected chairman and George M. Humphrey was made president. Humphrey was instrumental in the creation of National Steel Co. that year. In conjunction with the national trend toward vertical integration, National Steel combined the Great Lakes Steel Co., a sheet steel business in Detroit, with Pittsburgh’s Weirton Steel and Hanna’s Lake Superior iron ore properties, ships, and lakefront blast furnaces.
The consolidation enabled National Steel to integrate all aspects of the steel business, from raw materials to finished product, in one company. Ernest Weir, of Weirton, served as chairman of the new company, George Fink of Great Lakes Steel was president, and George Humphrey chaired the executive committee. In exchange for its iron ore operations, Hanna received more than one-fourth of National Steel’s capital stock, making Hanna the conglomerate’s biggest shareholder. Having the most modern plants in the United States on the eve of the Great Depression made National Steel one of the country’s most efficient and profitable steel works.
Although the company’s primary activities were still concentrated in coal, iron ore, blast furnaces, and lake shipping, they were set off into separate companies with Hanna exchanging its assets for common stock of large affiliates such as National Steel Corp., Consolidation Coal Co., and eventually, Hanna Mining Co.
The Hanna company had three primary spheres of operation in the 1930s. The oldest was the ore and lake coal group, which incorporated Hanna’s 20 Lake Superior ore mines, a mine in Missouri, and one in New York. National Steel became a “cash cow” for this division of Hanna—it could count on the associated company as a customer in bad times, such as the Depression, yet continue to sell to National’s competitors as well. The ore and lake division also included the Franklin Steamship Corp., a subsidiary that provided shipping on commission for other companies. In 1945 Franklin Steamship was consolidated with the rest of Hanna’s iron ore businesses as Hanna Coal & Ore Corp. Later named Hanna Mining Company, Franklin Steamship would evolve into Hanna’s primary business in the 1960s.
- After inheriting his father-in-law’s conglomerate, Marcus Alonzo Hanna renames it M. A. Hanna & Company.
- Moving into the political arena, Hanna turns over the company to his brothers.
- M. A. Hanna Company is incorporated and taken public.
- The BFGoodrich Company founds the vinyl plastic industry when a company scientist develops polyvinyl chloride (PVC); the company later markets PVC resin under the trade name Geon.
- The Goodrich Chemical Company is established and builds the first commercialized PVC plants.
- Hanna Mining Company, an affiliate of M. A. Hanna, is taken public.
- M. A. Hanna is liquidated, leaving Hanna Mining as an autonomous corporation.
- Early 1980’s:
- After fending off a takeover attempt, Hanna Mining begins selling off its mining assets.
- Hanna Mining reassumes the M. A. Hanna Company name.
- New CEO Martin Walker leads M. A. Hanna’s switch from mining to plastics.
- The Geon Company is spun off from Goodrich as an independent, publicly traded firm.
- Geon acquires Synergistics Industries Limited.
- Geon combines its PVC business with that of Occidental Chemical Corporation to form the joint venture OxyVinyls.
- M. A. Hanna and Geon merge to form PolyOne Corporation.
- PolyOne divests its rubber compounding business.
Hanna’s Susquehanna Collieries division, the company’s second sphere of operation, handled the company’s anthracite coal assets, which included three Pennsylvania mines with combined capacity of 12, 000 tons daily by 1946. The company’s third division concentrated on investments in a wide variety of industries, including rayon, oil, plastics, copper, tobacco, and banking. The division grew increasingly important in the 1930s and 1940s. Hanna purchased significant interests in: Standard Oil (0.3 percent); Seaboard Oil of Delaware (0.8 percent); Cleveland’s National City Bank (5.1 percent) in 1933; Industrial Rayon Co. (17.2 percent) in 1935; Union Bank of Commerce (8.4 percent) in 1941; Consolidated Natural Gas (0.3 percent) in 1943; Durez Plastics & Chemicals (11.6 percent) in 1945; and Pittsburgh Consolidation Coal (37.8 percent), which was formed in 1945.
In 1946 Hanna transferred its stock holdings in Northwestern-Hanna Fuel Co., which operated six coal docks in upper lake ports, and all of its coal mine operations in Ohio, to the Pittsburgh Consolidation Coal Co. for $2.43 million and 325, 000 common shares. Hanna retained management of the shipping and mining interests as part of its lake coal business.
The company’s sizable investments entitled it to a voice in the management of many of the companies it financed, and, by the end of World War II, Hanna decided “to concentrate our holdings in a few companies in which we have confidence and then help in every way we can to build those companies into the strongest possible position in their respective fields.” M. A. Hanna closed 1946 with $77 million in assets and holdings in some of North America’s most important companies. Its own operations were conducting research to make lower grades of Lake Superior ore available, and exploring manganese deposits in Arizona and minerals deposits in South America.
During the 1950s M. A. Hanna evolved through exchanges of stock and property into an investment company, while the Hanna Mining subsidiary concentrated on production and shipping. In 1951 M. A. Hanna acquired Canada’s Empire Hanna Coal Co., Ltd., and made it into a division. Hanna Mining Company went public in 1958 and purchased 84, 300 class B shares in M. A. Hanna. M. A. Hanna, in turn, owned 46 percent of Hanna Mining. The two companies also shared several board members.
The 1950s also saw Hanna Mining in a controversy over government nickel contracts. As the only nickel miner in the country, Hanna Mining produced emergency military stockpiles of the metal between 1953 and 1960. The U.S. Senate accused Hanna Mining of excessive profit-taking during hearings in the early 1960s, charging that the company made $10 million profit after taxes on an investment of $3.6 million.
In 1961, after Gilbert W. Humphrey (son of George M. Humphrey) had advanced to president and CEO of M. A. Hanna, the company announced plans to dispose of direct business activities. By doing so, M. A. Hanna became the United States’ largest closed-end investment company, with assets of about $500 million. As part of the plan, mining, shipping, and dock operations of companies affiliated with M. A. Hanna and the company’s substantial investment in Iron Ore Co. of Canada were sold to Hanna Mining. M. A. Hanna’s anthracite coal properties were sold to a new independent group, Empire Hanna Coal was purchased by outside interests, and Hanna’s Great Lakes coal and vessel fueling business was sold to Consolidation Coal Co.
Within just three years, the market value of M. A. Hanna’s three principal holdings—National Steel Corp., Consolidation Coal Co., and Hanna Mining Co.—had grown to $422.9 million. In 1964 Hanna Mining’s directors were so confident in the new organization of their company that they proposed a three-for-one stock split and a dividend increase. In less than a year, though, the company’s fortunes changed, and M. A. Hanna proposed that it be liquidated, leaving Hanna Mining as an autonomous corporation. Hanna Mining purchased one million shares of National Steel from M. A. Hanna and became the operating agent for National Steel iron ore mines and ships. M. A. Hanna sold its bituminous coal properties to Consolidation Coal Co. for $5.5 million.
After the liquidation, Hanna Mining became the focus of the management’s worldwide operations. Hanna Mining reported six consecutive years of record high profits. The increases came from flourishing investments in Iron Ore Co. of Canada and National Steel. Overseas mining activities in Australia, Guatemala, and Brazil also contributed to Hanna’s prosperity. Hanna enjoyed steadily increasing earnings in the 1970s, when the company entered into joint mining ventures in Liberia, Colombia, Australia, and Brazil, and established a copper mining project in Arizona. Within just one year at the end of the decade, earnings tripled.
The company reached record sales in 1981 of $400 million with $44 million in net income. Yet Hanna plummeted from that summit in the 1980s when foreign competitors initiated their devastating assault on the U.S. steel industry. The situation was exacerbated when, in 1981, Canadian financier Conrad Black of Norcen Energy Resources, Ltd., initiated a yearlong takeover battle. Black’s purchase of a large block of Hanna stock in October 1981 quickly captured the attention of Hanna Chairman Robert F. Anderson and other members of the board. After a relatively brief, but heated federal hearing, Black and Hanna forged a standstill agreement that gave Black 20 percent of Hanna in exchange for $90 million. Black became a director, and the last descendant of an M. A. Hanna & Company partner, George M. Humphrey II, resigned from his position as senior vice-president by 1984.
In 1982 Hanna lost $80 million on $300 million in sales, and was forced to shut down all of its operations (except one Brazilian iron ore mine) for three weeks in December of that year. During that break, the company essentially abandoned its long-held position in mining and began a massive restructuring. Between 1982 and 1986 Hanna racked up more than $320 million in losses, and its roster of employees plunged from 8, 000 to 3, 500. Between 1980 and 1985 Hanna Mining sold 60 percent of its coal and iron businesses and a batch of preferred stock to finance an acquisition binge that concentrated on distribution and compounding in two fields: construction aggregates and polymers. Soon after, Hanna closed its last U.S. iron mine. In May 1985 the exit from mining was confirmed when the company reassumed the M. A. Hanna Company name.
When Martin D. Walker was brought onboard from Rockwell International as CEO and chairman in 1986, he led the switch from mining to plastics. (The planned move into aggregates never materialized because Hanna was outbid by an English firm for an aggregates company.) Within less than a year, the company spent half a billion dollars to convert itself from a major mining company to an influential polymer compounder, plastics distributor, and colorants producer. In 1986 the company purchased Burton Rubber Processing; colorants processors Allied Color Industries, Inc., and Avecor; and Day International, Inc., a major processor, distributor, and manufacturer of polymer printing blankets. Hanna also purchased PMS Consolidated, the world’s leading plastic colorants processor; Colonial Rubber Works, a big compounder; and Cadillac Plastic, the number one distributor of plastic shapes, in 1987. The purchases revived Hanna’s sales from $130 million in 1986, with a $104 million loss, to $460 million in 1987, and a $37 million net. Hanna surpassed $1 billion in worldwide sales before the decade was out.
In 1990 Hanna acquired leading French plastics colorant producer Synthecolor S.A., a company with an estimated $25 million in annual sales. In 1991 Hanna purchased Seattle plastics distributor FibreChem for $70 million, and enlarged its formulated colorants capacity with the opening of a new PMS Consolidated plant. The addition of DH Compounding Company, a joint venture with Dow Chemical Co., that same year gave Hanna a total of four compounding units. Another Canadian takeover threat was thwarted that year, when Brascan Limited, a Canadian natural resources conglomerate, gobbled up 30 percent of Hanna, which repurchased the stock at a premium to avoid the takeover.
CEO Walker told Chemical Week in 1991 that Hanna hoped to become “less a subcontractor and more a proprietary company” in the last decade of the 20th century. The decision to refocus came on the heels of an early 1990s recession that highlighted Hanna’s dependence on contract work that distanced the company from the end users of its products and services. In 1992 the company sold a portion of its interest in Iron Ore Company of Canada to Mitsubishi Corporation and also divested the oil interests of Midland SouthWest Corporation.
M. A. Hanna completed several more acquisitions in the mid-1990s to both strengthen its U.S. operations and make further inroads into overseas markets. In June 1993, for example, the firm acquired Cookson America Inc.’s engineered materials division, which included Monmouth Plastics Company, a leading producer of flame retardant polyolefins, and Texapol Corporation, a major producer of engineered thermoplastic compounds, including nylon, acetal, and polycarbonate. The following July, Hanna purchased Theodor Bergmann GmbH & Co. Kunststoffwerk KG, one of Germany’s largest producers of specialty and reinforced thermoplastic compounds. Also venturing into Asia, Hanna established a plastics-compounding joint venture with a state-owned manufacturer in China in January 1996, the same month it completed an acquisition of CIMCO, Inc., a producer of thermoplastic compounds and plastic components based in Costa Mesa, California, that generated about half of its sales in Asia and operated one plant in Singapore in addition to its two U.S. plants and one under construction in France. In March 1996 Hanna acquired Manchester, England-based Victor International Plastics, Ltd., from Rexam PLC. Victor, which generated annual sales of more than $50 million, produced color concentrates used to dye plastic. Hanna in early 1997 began building a manufacturing plant near Shanghai, China, for the production of color and additive concentrates.
During this same period, M. A. Hanna restructured a number of the businesses it had acquired during its spending spree, amalgamating them into larger business units. Thus, several regional resin distribution subsidiaries were merged to form the M. A. Hanna Resin Distribution business unit, and M. A. Hanna Engineered Materials was formed by consolidating Colonial Plastics, Monmouth Plastics, and Texapol Corp. Similar mergers in 1995 created M. A. Hanna Color and M. A. Hanna Rubber Compounding. That same year, Hanna divested Day International in order to focus on its polymer businesses with higher growth potential, and it also sold the last of its mining assets, offloading its remaining 8.14 percent in Iron Ore Company of Canada. By 1996 M. A. Hanna had doubled its revenues since the beginning of the decade, generating net sales of $2.07 billion, with 20 percent coming from outside the United States; the net income figure of $53.8 million for the year was almost half that of the previous year, but the difference was mainly attributable to the 1995 divestments.
At the beginning of 1997 Walker was succeeded as CEO by Douglas J. McGregor, who Walker had hired away from Rockwell International in 1988 and made president of Hanna in 1989. McGregor became chairman as well in June 1997, upon Walker’s retirement. Under McGregor, Hanna continued to complete acquisitions and enter into joint ventures, but the company began losing customers as a result of an over-focus on integrating acquisitions and the distraction of the implementation of a new information technology system. The lost customers drove down earnings and the firm’s stock price. In August 1998 the company launched a restructuring of its custom-formulated color business unit, eventually shutting down five plants and eliminating around 300 jobs from the workforce. Despite this and other moves, Hanna continued to falter, and McGregor abruptly stepped down in October 1998.
Walker returned as interim chairman and CEO, focusing on winning back lost customers. In June 1999 Phillip D. Ashkettle was hired as the new CEO, having spent the previous six years engineering a turnaround at Reichhold, Inc., a producer of specialty polymers, adhesives, and polymer systems based in North Carolina. At the beginning of 2000, Walker retired once again as Ashkettle added the chairmanship to his duties. In May of that year, M. A. Hanna agreed to merge with The Geon Company.
The BFGoodrich Company was founded in 1870 by Dr. Benjamin Franklin Goodrich in Akron, Ohio. The original Goodrich product was a cotton-covered fire hose. Research and development was always given a high priority at Goodrich, and within its first 20 years, the company became known as the rubber industry problem-solver. The first rubber research laboratory in the United States was set up by Charles Cross Goodrich, son of the founder, in 1895. The Goodrich inventors improved on all types of products, including golf balls. In addition, they developed an efficient rubber reclamation process that would be used by the industry for decades.
Polyvinyls were the fortuitous result of the Goodrich policy of research and development. A company scientist working on developing a rubber product that adhered to metal discovered a chemical product that did just the opposite. In addition, the new product did not deteriorate when exposed to rubber-damaging processes. By pioneering polyvinyl chloride in 1926, Goodrich founded the vinyl plastic industry. Early PVC applications included waterproof raincoats and umbrellas. The company’s polyvinyls became known as Geon and Koro-seal and the versatile materials, which could be used in soft or hard form, eventually found their way into a variety of commonly used products, including electrical insulation, floor tiling, garden hoses, draperies, and luggage.
In the 1930s Goodrich scientific developments included the first airplane deicer, the endless band vehicle track used for farm and military vehicles, and the first commercial production of synthetic rubber. Of these developments, company President John Lyon Collyer saw great potential in and put great emphasis on the production of synthetic rubber. There was an enormous market for U.S.-made rubber because, prior to World War II, the nation was importing 90 percent of its rubber supply from the Far East. During the war Goodrich became heavily involved in rubber production for the military.
Though Goodrich focused on rubber, it also saw potential in its chemical business. The Goodrich Chemical Company was established in 1943 and built the first commercialized PVC plants. Its main products were vinyl materials (Geon), plasticizers, special-purpose rubbers, rubber manufacturing chemicals, and general chemicals. In 1948 a new research center was opened to further pure science, as well as applications, in the fields of rubber, chemicals, plastics, chemurgy, and the new field of nuclear energy.
By the early 1950s the company’s largest division was tires, but the company could not seem to capitalize on its research and creativity. After inventing the first radial tires in the 1960s, Goodrich could not sell them to car manufacturers or American consumers. Five years later, French tire manufacturer Michelin successfully introduced radial tires. Goodrich’s marketing ineptness, which wasted its pioneering research, was recognized throughout the industry. “Long the tire industry research leader,” Forbes contributor Robert J. Flaherty wrote, “Goodrich has been the butt of a joke repeated in Akron for four decades: Goodrich invents it, Firestone copies it and Goodyear sells it.”
A bitter takeover attempt in 1969 forced the Goodrich board to make some changes. In 1972, O. Pendleton Thomas, an oil company executive, took over command of Goodrich and restructured, closing money-losing plants and modernizing others. Thomas also implemented cutbacks on the types of tires produced and moved toward greater emphasis on chemicals and plastics. Thomas timed the company’s shift away from tires well, for the 1970s marked the downfall of the American tire industry.
In 1979, when John D. Ong took over as chair and CEO, Goodrich was fourth among tire manufacturers, behind Goodyear, Firestone, and Michelin. The recession years of the early 1980s were some of the worst in history for the tire industry. In 1981 Goodrich dropped out of the original-equipment tire market, no longer selling directly to the automobile manufacturers, and instead concentrated on the higher-margin replacement tire market. In spite of the recession, the company was able to break even.
In the wake of the tire industry downfall, Ong expanded Goodrich’s PVC business. By the end of 1981, 51 percent of total assets and one-third of the company’s $3 billion in sales were attributable to Goodrich’s chemical group. The 100-year-old tire manufacturer was on its way to becoming a chemical company. Goodrich focused on one product group, polyvinyl chloride resins and compounds, an area in which it had already become a dominant supplier. Uniroyal, another American tire manufacturer, was also moving in the direction of chemicals, creating a broad product mix of chemicals and elastomers (a plastic and rubber combination). Other tire manufacturers, pressed by foreign competition and the longer lasting radial tire, were also increasing their chemical production, but not in the sweeping way in which Goodrich and Uniroyal were proceeding.
Unfortunately, excess capacity and poor pricing plagued the PVC business in the early 1980s, when the industry was in its deepest decline since the Great Depression. Total PVC production in the United States fell by 6.6 percent from 1981 to 1982, dropping plant capacity to 55 percent. In 1982 general-purpose PVC was selling at 25 cents a pound, two cents below the industry recognized break-even point for PVC manufacturers. That year Goodrich lost more than $30 million.
By the spring of 1983 the PVC market was in an upswing and Goodrich increased its PVC prices eight cents per pound in April. Goodrich had about 23 percent of the market at the time and was the only fully integrated PVC supplier in the world, with seven plant sites in production. The company was not only twice the size of second-ranked Tenneco but was also the low-cost producer. Even though Goodrich was increasing its debt load to expand its PVC business, buyers on Wall Street seemed to approve, with the stock reaching a 14-year high. The company recorded profits of $35 million on revenues of $3.2 billion. From 1979 to 1983 Ong had cut the workforce by 30 percent to 30, 000 and put $1.3 billion into operations. He was also touting PVC as the basis of the company’s growth. Capacity utilization was up to 80 percent in the plants.
The 1983 upswing in the PVC industry was short-lived, leaving a glut of the product from industry-wide plant expansions. In 1984, 200 jobs, or 25 percent of salaried employees, were cut from Goodrich’s Chemical Group. The industry had adequately adjusted to the cyclical nature of its business. Low-margin commodity resins (providing the seasonal construction industry with pipes, siding, flooring coverings, and other building uses) were the mainstay of the industry, using almost 50 percent of all PVC. To establish steadiness for Goodrich’s PVC business, Ong pursued production of finished PVC products such as bottles, a potentially huge market.
Goodrich’s strategy in the mid-1980s was to expand specialty chemical activities and increase investment in aerospace activities. The company made four chemical manufacturer purchases and four aerospace acquisitions in three years. Goodrich also increased its research and development expenditures and created separate sales forces for the three specialty chemical units. In the second quarter of 1984, specialty resins, which were enhanced with heat stabilizers and other additives, accounted for 55 percent of Goodrich’s PVC sales, significantly more than the industry-wide average of 40 percent.
In 1984, however, Business Week claimed that Goodrich was experiencing a high turnover of management and that the Geon division, with two operating chiefs in three years, was experiencing low employee morale. Market miscalculations and management mistakes had plagued Geon for some time. The $700 million sunk into the PVC division from 1979 to 1984 had yielded an operating income of only $131 million. With its staff of applications researchers and marketers, Goodrich found itself competing with bare-bones operations such as Formosa Plastics and Shintech.
In the mid-1980s Goodrich tried to streamline its PVC production. Goodrich closed an outmoded, high-cost PVC resin facility, eliminating 170 million pounds per year of capacity. Nevertheless, Goodrich remained the largest PVC producer in the United States, with more than one billion pounds per year. The company also sold its unprofitable Convent, Louisiana, plant. The $250 million ethylene dichloride plant, completed in 1981, was part of the company’s move toward backward integration into chemicals that were used to produce PVC. The Convent project was begun when it was cheaper to produce intermediate products because of scarcity of raw materials and high inflation. A predicted long-term chemical shortage failed to materialize and elevated gas prices boosted the energy cost to run the plant. In addition, PVC growth was overestimated and the price of low-grade resin, which made up a large segment of the market, was unstable. A total of $500 million in assets were divested in the restructuring. Those pieces of the business consisted of 25 percent of 1984 revenues generated, but operated at a loss of $22 million. After restructuring, Goodrich was down more than a billion in sales from its sales peak of $3.3 billion in 1984. However, PVC was still the world’s second largest-selling plastic and the Geon Vinyl Division remained the largest producer of PVC in North America, grossing $865.8 million in 1985.
Specialty chemicals and aerospace were the clear focus of the company in the late 1980s because of their fast growth potential. Ann Slakter wrote in 1986, “Goodrich is heavily committed to the PVC business; its product line includes general- and special-purpose resins, special-purpose vinyl chloride monomer and caustic soda.” In 1987 Geon Vinyl Division had sales of $1.06 billion and an operating income of $143.5 million. PVCs consisted of 49 percent of the company’s total sales of $2.17 billion, with specialty chemicals bringing in 32 percent of sales, aerospace 15 percent, and industrial products 4 percent. While over 50 percent of the company’s revenues had been from tires in the early 1980s, Goodrich moved further from its tire roots in 1986 by entering into a 50-50 joint venture with Uniroyal that combined their tire operations. When U.S. demand for PVC was high and export demand strong because of a weak dollar in 1988, Goodrich sold its 50 percent stake in Uniroyal-Goodrich Tire, leaving Goodrich with core businesses of polyvinyl chloride, special chemicals, and aerospace.
In 1989 William Patient, a chemical industry vice-president forced into early retirement, was hired to run the Geon division. In 1991 Goodrich entered the PVC recycling business by becoming one of three partners in the first large commercial PVC recycling facility, located in Hamilton, Ontario. Goodrich was responsible for purchasing and recompounding the PVC that was reclaimed. In another recycling partnership, the company introduced the first blow-molded bottles using recycled PVC. Still, in 1991 the Geon division lost $135 million on $1.2 billion in revenues. Patient saw that Goodrich was pushing itself as a specialty chemical maker but really was a high-cost producer of a commodity product. Goodrich was spending a lot on research and development instead of cutting costs.
In March 1993 Geon was spun off from Goodrich, with Patient staying on as president, CEO, and chairman. Patient told Forbes, “We took a clean sheet of paper and started over.” During the week following the announcement of the initial public offering, Goodrich stock plummeted some 18 percent. Goodrich had been selling itself as a PVC and chemical company and the impending sale came as a surprise to shareholders and analysts who had foreseen a strong resurgence in the PVC industry and had bought Goodrich shares as a value play. While the Geon Division had produced 35 percent of sales and consisted of 50 percent of the company’s assets, it also had experienced six quarters of losses since 1991. Geon sold at $18 per share in April in the first of two offerings. The second public offering in November sold at $20 per share. Goodrich raised $700 million in the sale and planned to increase its investments in aerospace and specialty chemicals.
Newly independent, The Geon Company was the third largest PVC resin supplier in North America, with 1.94 billion pounds of capacity. Shintech had 2.3 billion pounds of capacity per year, followed by Occidental Chemical Corporation with 2.1 billion. At the time of the sale the PVC maker had 2, 500 employees; 14 businesses with resin-making compounding sites in the United States, Canada, and Australia; and a 50 percent share in a PVC compounding plant in England. Shintech was a low-cost resin and compounding company.
In a strategy designed to make Geon the recognized low-cost provider in the industry, product offerings in both resins and compounds were reduced and consolidated. The number of raw materials needed for manufacturing processes was also reduced. While this was being accomplished, Geon began targeting high-performance custom-molded compounds for future growth, thereby shifting the company away from some of the volatility in the PVC resins business.
In 1993 the U.S. PVC industry sold a record 10.5 billion pounds on the heels of eight consecutive years of 6 percent average growth. The upswing was led by an improved housing market and construction demand for residential siding, windows, and flooring. The industry was again at a high rate of capacity and the year ended unusually, with price increases and no typical year-end slowdown.
Because of the economic recession in Europe and Japan, though, world growth in PVC was weak in 1993, at 5 percent, and U.S. exports were flat. The majority of Geon PVC sales, 87 percent, were in North America. The Far East PVC growth was twice that of North America but Geon had only a small part of that market. The company’s fiscal 1993 debt-to-capital ratio was 32 percent. Revenues broke down with 52 percent coming from vinyl resins, 39 percent from vinyl compounds, 9 percent from vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), licensing, and other income. The number of employees had fallen by 35 percent since 1991 and was at 1, 930 by year-end. Three high-cost resin plants had been closed, eliminating 500 million pounds or 25 percent of 1991 total resin production capability. In contrast to its position in 1991, when it was losing money and was a high-cost commodity producer, Geon by the end of 1993 was trimmer, more focused, and in the black, with its stock reflecting a healthy 32 percent total return since the initial public offering.
In 1994 Geon announced plans to increase VCM capacity in one of its plants at least 50 percent by 1996. The move made the company less dependent on competition for raw materials while providing the raw material for PVC production at a lower cost than could be obtained by purchasing it from an outside supplier. Because of environmental concerns, chlorine use was declining in the paper industry, which lowered demand for one of the raw materials that Geon continued to purchase.
By 1996, as a result of the company’s efficiency efforts, Geon was producing 20 percent more PVC resin than it had been four years earlier even though it had closed three resin plants that accounted for 25 percent of its capacity. That year, however, Geon sputtered to a full-year profit of only $12.2 million, compared to the $71.3 million figure for 1995, thanks to a brutal combination of a drop in PVC prices and increases in raw material costs. Results for 1997 were only marginally better as overcapacity in the PVC industry grew worse following the outbreak of the Asian financial crisis. That year, Geon promoted Thomas Waltermire from CFO to chief operating officer, placing him in charge of day-to-day operations and positioning him to succeed Patient. The firm also shifted into growth mode by completing its first acquisition since gaining independence from Goodrich. In October, Geon acquired Synergistics Industries Limited of Mississauga, Ontario, a maker of plastic compounds and liquid plasticizers used in consumer products, such as medical bottles, and construction materials, such as electrical wire and cable insulation and jacketing. Purchased for $86.5 million, Synergistics had six manufacturing sites in the United States and Canada and generated $293 million in revenues in 1996.
Attempting to escape from the cyclicality of the highly competitive commodity PVC resin business, Geon in December 1998 combined its PVC business with that of Occidental Chemical (OxyChem) to form the joint venture OxyVinyls. Geon held a 24 percent stake in the venture, while OxyChem held the other 76 percent. Following this move, Geon was able to concentrate more of its resources on value-added, higher-priced products such as vinyl compounds, specialty resins, and performance polymers. These areas were built up through a series of acquisitions in 1998 and 1999, including the purchases of five formulators of plastisols, highly plasticized PVC compounds. In July 1999 Geon also acquired Virginia-based O’Sullivan Corporation for approximately $191 million, gaining a manufacturer of polymer films used in automobile interiors, book binders, medical bags, and other products. O’Sullivan became the core of Geon’s engineered films operations. Also in 1999 the company consolidated its plastic compounding operations by shutting down two plants, one in Ontario and one in Texas, resulting in a workforce reduction of about 250. Midyear, Waltermire succeeded Patient as CEO of Geon, and it was under Waltermire’s watch that Geon agreed to merge with M. A. Hanna.
In a stock-swap deal announced in May 2000 and completed that September, M. A. Hanna and Geon merged to form PolyOne Corporation. The combination created the world’s largest polymer company, with a range of operations consisting of polymer compounds, color and additive systems, specialty resins, rubber compounds, engineered films, and polymer distribution. PolyOne began with a workforce of around 9, 000 and 80 manufacturing sites around the world. On a pro forma basis, combined revenues exceeded $3 billion. The firm was initially headquartered in Cleveland, but it later moved to the nearby city of Avon Lake, where Geon had been based. On the management front, Ash-kettle, who had headed Hanna, had been slated to serve as chairman and CEO of PolyOne, but he abruptly resigned from Hanna just before the merger was consummated. As a result, Waltermire took control as PolyOne’s first chairman, president, and CEO.
PolyOne got off to a very rough start in part because of the double whammy of an economic downturn and high oil prices, the latter of which drove up raw material costs. Operationally, the company was also hampered because the dozens of acquisitions that Hanna had made in the years leading up to the merger had not been adequately integrated. Thus, the management team at PolyOne launched a string of streamlining initiatives that by mid-2003 had reduced the number of plants to around 65 and the workforce to around 7, 200. As this restructuring unfolded in the midst of the economic downturn, the company suffered net losses for both 2001 and 2002: $46.1 million and $58.9 million, respectively. Revenues for both years were around $2.5 billion.
Seeking to cut its high debt load of nearly $800 million and to focus its attention on a few core businesses, PolyOne in October 2003 announced plans to divest three businesses—rubber compounding, engineered films, and specialty resins—that accounted for one-fourth of its 2002 sales. The company intended to concentrate on plastics compounding, colors and additives for the plastics industry, and the distribution of resins. In August 2004 PolyOne sold its rubber compounding business to an investment group for about $120 million. The following October the company reached an agreement to sell its engineered films unit to an investor group consisting of members of the unit’s management team and the private equity firm Matrix Capital Markets for gross proceeds of $26.7 million. As part of the deal, which closed in February 2006, PolyOne retained an 18 percent stake in the divested business.
Later in October 2005, Waltermire unexpectedly stepped down from his leadership position. Taking over as CEO on an interim basis was Patient, the former head of Geon, who had served as nonexecutive chairman of PolyOne since November 2003. In December 2005, during Patient’s interim term as CEO, the company announced that it had been unable to find a buyer willing to pay “acceptable terms” for the specialty resins business and that unit would therefore be retained. PolyOne brought onboard a new leader in February 2006, naming Stephen Newlin chairman, president, and CEO. Newlin had previously spent three years as an executive at Ecolab Inc. and 23 years at Nalco Chemical Company, two specialty chemical concerns.
Among Newlin’s initial efforts at PolyOne was an attempt to bring more balance into the mix of industries to which the firm supplied compounds and other products. The company, which had been heavily dependent on the recession-prone building and construction and automobile industries, began making a more concerted effort to capture business in higher-growth areas, such as electronics. PolyOne continued to earmark much of the cash it generated to pay down long-term debt, which was reduced to $567.7 million by the end of 2006. Another of Newlin’s goals was to increase overseas sales, which accounted for about one-third of overall 2006 revenues. Toward that end, PolyOne in 2006 began building a plant in Kutno, Poland, to serve the markets of Eastern Europe and also set up a business development office in India to establish a beachhead in that rapidly developing market. Already running three plants in China and generating about $65 million in annual sales there, PolyOne in late 2006 announced an agreement to acquire Ngai Hing PlastChem Company Ltd., operator of a vinyl compounding plant in the southern Chinese city of Dongguan. In February 2007 PolyOne revealed plans to establish a research and service center in northeastern China. Through such initiatives, it seemed possible that the high expectations that had accompanied the creation of PolyOne might finally be realized.
Jay P. Pederson, April S. Dougal Updated, David E. Salamie
Auseon Limited (Australia); Compounding Technology, Euro S.A. (France); Conexus, Inc.; DH Compounding Company; Geon Development, Inc.; Hanna France SARL; Hanna PAR Corporation; Hollinger Development Company; L. E. Carpenter & Company; LP Holdings (Canada); M.A. Hanna Asia Holding Company; M.A. Hanna Export Services Company (Barbados); M.A. Hanna Plastic Group, Inc.; M.A. Hanna de Mexico, S.A. de C.V.; MAH Plastics Company; O’Sullivan Plastics Corporation; O’Sullivan Films Holding Corporation; POL Plastics Company; Polymer Diagnostics, Inc.; PolyOne, LLC; PolyOne Belgium SA; PolyOne Canada, Inc.; PolyOne Color and Additives Germany, GmbH; PolyOne Corporation UK Limited; PolyOne Czech Republic; PolyOne Deutschland, GmbH (Germany); PolyOne Distribution de Mexico S.A. de C.V.; PolyOne Engineered Films, Inc.; PolyOne Funding Corporation; PolyOne International Financial Services Company (Ireland); PolyOne International Trading (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. (China); PolyOne Italy, Srl; PolyOne Management International Holding, S.A. (Spain); PolyOne Spain, S.A.; PolyOne France S.A.S.; PolyOne Hungary, Ltd.; PolyOne Polska (Poland); PolyOne Poland Manufacturing; PolyOne Shenzhen Co. Ltd. (China); PolyOne Shanghai, China; PolyOne Singapore, Ltd.; PolyOne-Suzhou, China; PolyOne Sweden, AB; PolyOne Th. Bergmann, GmbH (Germany); PolyOne Termoplasticos do Brasil Ltda. (Brazil); PVC Powder Blends LP (90%); Regalite Plastics Corporation; Shawnee Holdings, Inc.; Star Color Co. Ltd. (Thailand); Tekno Polimer Group (Turkey); PolyOne Wilflex Australasia Pty. Ltd. (Australia).
Ferro Corporation; A. Schulman, Inc.; Spartech Corporation; Shintech, Inc.; Georgia Gulf Corporation; Formosa Plastics Corporation; BASF Aktiengesellschaft.
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