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Uniroyal Engineered Products merges with UK's Wardle Storeys

By: Michael Lauzon

March 14, 2013

SARASOTA, FLA. -- The producer of the well-known Naugahyde vinyl-coated fabrics brand has merged with a British firm to expand its reach into Europe.

Uniroyal Engineered Products announced March 12 that it combined with Wardle Storeys Ltd. of Earby, England. Uniroyal Engineered is headquartered in Sarasota, Fla., and runs a manufacturing plant in Stoughton, Wis. Like Uniroyal Engineered, Wardle Storeys is a major producer of vinyl-coated fabrics.

The firms have diverse markets, the major ones including automotive, industrial, upholstery and healthcare.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition became effective March 4.

"There were two main reasons for the merger," said Uniroyal Engineered President Howard F. Curd in a telephone interview. "The geography is important to expand our footprint. Customers, especially in automotive, are getting more global."

The other main reason is that the firms' auto business, the biggest market for the combined companies, did not have much overlap.

"They sell to different OEMs and Tier 1 companies," Curd explained. "This is an opportunity to open up to new customers overseas."

The combined business has annual sales of more than $100 million, estimated Uniroyal Engineered vice president of human resources John Lynn in a telephone interview. It will be based in Sarasota but the companies will continue to operate under their established names to take advantage of the goodwill they have earned in their markets. There is no immediate plan to create a new name for the combined entity.

Uniroyal Engineered has had very limited business overseas, although brokers might have been selling its coated fabrics offshore.

Curd said he and private investors bought Uniroyal Engineered in 2003 with the legal assistance of Five Points Partners LLC of New York.

Uniroyal Engineered used to be part of Uniroyal Technology Corp., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2002. In 2003 Uniroyal Technology's businesses were split up with Curd and his partners getting the vinyl-coated fabric business.

The Uniroyal moniker dates to 1961 when the former United States Rubber Co. changed its name. Uniroyal, originally a tire company, diversified into specialty chemicals, vinyl fabrics, plastic sheet and specialty products. In 1990 French tire major Michelin bought the Uniroyal Tire business. In 2000, Spartech Corp. bought the sheet business comprising Royalite thermoplastic sheet and Polycast cell-cast acrylics.

The Naugahyde name derives from Naugatuck, Conn., where the vinyl-coated fabric was first made in 1936.

Uniroyal Engineered sells its industrial products under the Uniroyal Engineered Products name and its consumer-related products under the Naugahyde name.

Wardle Storeys' brand names include Amba vinyl-coated fabrics for the contract upholstery market and Velbex calendered vinyl sheet for medical, industrial, barrier, pond liner, decorative laminates and other markets.The company also has a components division that does vacuum forming, injection molding and urethane foam molding for automotive and other markets.

Calendered vinyl will be the biggest new business for Uniroyal Engineered in the merger, according to Curd.

"Uniroyal [Engineered] and Wardle Storeys have a long history of outstanding design and development capabilities and the technology exchange and the sharing of resources will expand our offerings to all our customers," Curd noted in a news release.

Wardle Storeys sells a range of vinyl-coated auto interior trim, including vacuum-formed components. Other markets for such products include marine, healthcare, child care and other transportation applications. Earby, in Lancashire County, is its only manufacturing plant. The firm was privately owned.

Wardle Storey referred questions about the deal to Uniroyal Engineered.

According to Hoover's, a Dun & Bradstreet company, Uniroyal Engineered's main competitors are specialty textile firm Hallwood Group Inc. of Dallas; producer of elastomer-coated and unsupported sheeting Trelleborg Coated Systems U.S. Inc. of Spartanburg, S.C.; and Eagle Ottawa LLC, an Auburn Hillls, Mich., supplier of leather and leather laminates for premium automotive interior trim.