By Mike McNulty, Rubber & Plastics News Staff
Malcom, Iowa-When BASF Corp. came knocking on ITWC Inc.'s door with an offer to buy the polyurethane chemicals business, Walt Smith wasn't quite ready to sell.
He listened anyway. After all, he figured, companies like BASF don't come calling very often. The more they talked, the more Smith realised the time was right to let the company grow under a new owner.
The 64-year-old chairman and majority owner of ITWC and Thombert Inc. sold ITWC to BASF in early July for an undisclosed amount. The deal was good for Smith, ITWC and its employees, and BASF, he said.
"I knew this was the best thing for ITWC," he said a week after the sale, because BASF will invest in the operation he formed in Malcom, Iowa, in 1988. He brokered a pact that guaranteed all 80 ITWC employees - except for him - kept their jobs and the plant will continue operating in Malcom.
About 17 percent of ITWC's owners were former or present company employees. "All employees have had the ability to buy into the company if they wanted," Smith said. Those who had stock options cashed in when he sold the firm.
"It's a way of walking away from the business and sharing the success with those who helped create it," he said.
Smith will continue to serve as chairman and ceo to PU tyre moulding business Thombert in Newton, Iowa But he doesn't plan to run the business.
"Dick Davidson, the president of the company, has worked for me for 35 years, and he's done a great job," Smith said. "My particular skill is not screwing it up. Part of the success I've had is that I trust the people who run the businesses."
Smith said the sale of ITWC means Thombert's future in Newton is more assured than ever. "It's a great little business. We have the largest share of forklift tires and wheels for electric trucks in the US."