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Toilet seat maker seeks buyer

By: Catherine Kavanaugh

March 10, 2014

Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc. is planning to unload its toilet seat business after more than 120 years.

The Columbus, Miss.-based company has retained Heritage Equity Partners to assist with the sale of the business or its assets, which includes two manufacturing facilities, injection molding equipment, and a variety of design and utility patents on plumbing implements, connectors and brackets.

The business manufactures toilet seating products for residential, commercial, airline and space shuttle bathrooms.

Founded in 1883 in Chicago as Findeisen-Kropf, Henry Beneke, Sr., bought the business in 1923. He developed a process of mixing sawdust from discarded wood with a resin and molding the wood flour into toilet seats, which are trademarked under the name of Tuffy.

Sanderson still sells the Tuffy brand under the Beneke logo for plumbing wholesalers and the Magnolia line for retailers as well as vinyl bathroom seats.

Sanderson Plumbing was acquired by Beneke Magnolia, Inc. in March 2012 with a loan through the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) and other incentives totaling about $2.5 million as part of the state’s job retention program.

MDA promoted the loan as a way of working with a company that was planning to close it manufacturing facility and lay off the plant’s 400 workers.

However, Sanderson officials filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court in October with more than $2.8 million in unsecured claims to creditors, according to the Columbus Commercial Dispatch.

Sanderson now employs about 250 people, mostly at a 360,000-square foot facility on 30 acres in Columbus, where the main wood-flour line can make 12,000 toilet seats in an eight-hour day and the injection molding equipment can make 6,000 seats in 24 hours.

The other company-owned, wood-flour production facility consists of a 25,000-square foot building in Butler, Ala. This plant closed in May 2011 after 13 years of operation, resulting in 50 layoffs. The mayor at the time cited a drop in demand from home builders.

In addition to all building, machinery and equipment assets, Sanderson has several U.S.-based and international patents on plumbing implements.

“This is an excellent opportunity to acquire an established manufacturing company with a deep history and/or its substantial manufacturing capacity,” Fred Cross, a managing director with the investment banking firm, said in a news release.

Cross also said Sanderson has a “strong, cost-efficient work force in place” and excess injection molding and wood-flour molding equipment for making new products.

Heritage Equity Partners, formerly called Equity Partners, is based in Easton, Md., and has completed more than 400 U.S. deals since 1988.