Newlin retiring from PolyOne

By Frank Esposito
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: March 11, 2014 8:34 pm ET
Updated: March 14, 2014 2:24 pm ET

Image By: PolyOne Stephen Newlin

Related to this story

Topics Materials, Materials Suppliers
Companies & Associations PolyOne Corp.

North America’s largest compounder soon will have a new man in charge.

Stephen Newlin, 61, will retire as president and CEO of Avon Lake, Ohio-based PolyOne Corp. on May 15. Those roles will be filled by Robert Patterson, 41, who currently serves as the firm’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

PolyOne’s turnaround under Newlin has been impressive — analyst Kevin Hocevar called him “one of the great CEOs in the specialty chemicals space over the past decade.”

When Newlin was hired in early 2006, PolyOne was reeling from almost $300 million in losses in the five years since it was formed from the 2000 merger of compounders Geon Co. and M.A. Hanna Co.

Newlin “led PolyOne from a commodity company on the brink of disaster to what is now a specialty, innovative, industry leading compounder with its best years still to come,” said Hocevar, of Northcoast Research in Cleveland, in a March 12 email.

Industry consultant John Jones added that PolyOne “has made tremendous progress” under Newlin.

Jones, president of JRJ Inc. in Wyomissing, Pa., said that PolyOne “has aggressively grown through several large acquisitions without losing its focus on the specialty markets.”

In a March 12 conference call, Newlin said he “couldn’t be more proud of our specialty transformation and the employees who made it happen.” Speaking of Patterson, Newlin said “I’ve hired a lot of excellent leaders in three decades, and Bob [Patterson] is one of the best, if not the best hire I’ve ever made.”

Patterson added during the call that PolyOne’s “proven strategic direction will remain unchanged” under his leadership. He also said that acquisitions will continue to be “a very important part” of PolyOne’s growth.

“We’re always looking,” Patterson said. “We hope we can find other [acquisitions] to tuck into our specialty portfolio.”

When Newlin joined PolyOne, a manufacturing slowdown and internal challenges had driven PolyOne’s annual sales down from $3.1 billion to $2.2 billion. The firm also had shed almost 1,300 jobs by closing 20 plants.

Newlin took immediate action, selling businesses that were unprofitable or that did not fit the firm’s specialty profile. In one of those deals, PolyOne sold its minority stake in PVC resin maker Oxy Vinyls LP to partner Occidental Chemical Corp. for $261 million in 2007.

That move, combined with its 2011 sale of its stake in chlor-alkali maker SunBelt, reduced the firm’s exposure to commodity-type volatility.

The recession of 2008-09 caused Newlin to make some tough choices early in his PolyOne tenure. Between mid-2008 and the end of 2009, the firm closed an additional nine plants, eliminating more than 500 jobs. Salaries of the firm’s executives also were frozen in 2009.

At the same time, Newlin focused on paying down PolyOne’s large debt load and developing new products, before embarking on a string of specialty acquisitions. The firm made three major purchases under Newlin, starting with thermoplastic elastomer compounder GLS Corp. of McHenry, Ill., in late 2007.

In late 2011, PolyOne paid almost $500 million for ColorMatrix Inc. a maker of liquid colorants, additives and fluoropolymers in Berea, Ohio. Then in late 2012, the firm spent almost $400 million to buy Spartech Corp., a Clayton, Mo.-based maker of plastic sheet and compounds. That deal stood out, since it marked a move downstream into production of plastic products.

Other growth initiatives at PolyOne during Newlin’s time as CEO include:

• Buying a PVC compounding plant in Dongguan, China, in 2006.

• Opening a color concentrates plant in Kutno, Poland, in 2007.

• Buying Brazilian compounders and concentrate makers Uniplen and Polimaster in 2010-11.

• Opening a $3 million innovation center at its Avon Lake headquarters in 2011.

• Buying reinforced polymers and advanced composites maker Glasforms Inc. of Birmingham, Ala., for $34 million in 2012.

Financially, PolyOne’s fortunes also greatly improved under Newlin. For 2013, the firm posted sales of almost $3.8 billion and profit of more than $240 million.

The change also has been reflected in PolyOne’s per-share stock price. That price was near $9 when Newlin joined the firm, but sank to under $2 in the midst of the recession in 2009. Since that low point, the stock has made a remarkable recovery, closing at $36.75 on March 13.

Patterson joined PolyOne in 2008 as senior vice president and chief financial officer He also directly oversaw PolyOne’s growth initiatives in Asia, leading to record profitability in 2013. In 2012, he was promoted to his current role.

Prior to joining PolyOne, Patterson held leadership positions at aluminum firm Novelis Inc. of Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C.-based industrial manufacturer SPX Corp.

Newlin said now is “the perfect time” for him to retire, “with the company in the best position ever, with a capable leader ready to take the reins.”

He added that he had personal reasons for making the move.

“I’ve been working since I was 10 years old,” Newlin said. “I’ve got some personal goals I’m going to pursue. … I’ll spend some time speaking and in the classroom … and if I have any spare time I might take up the game of golf.”


Comments

Newlin retiring from PolyOne

By Frank Esposito
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: March 11, 2014 8:34 pm ET
Updated: March 14, 2014 2:24 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Nova expanding PE research center

August 26, 2014 1:36 pm ET

Nova Chemicals Corp. has broken ground on an expansion of its polyethylene research center in Calgary, Alberta.    More

Image

Sinopec licenses PP technology to USA, posts half-year results

August 26, 2014 11:46 am ET

China's state-owned petrochemical giant Sinopec Corp. said it is licensing polypropylene polymerization technology to a U.S. plant for the first time ...    More

Image

Japan's DIC planning PPS compounding plant in China

August 25, 2014 1:28 pm ET

Japanese materials firm DIC Corp. plans to open its first polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) compounding plant in China by the end of 2015.    More

Image

China's PVC exports face challenges

August 22, 2014 2:14 pm ET

Despite robust growth in the first half of the year, China's PVC exports now faces new challenges, due to trade barriers and new capacity ramping up...    More

Image

Recycled HDPE prices climbing

August 22, 2014 11:26 am ET

North American selling prices for recycled grades of high density polyethylene resin have increased in recent months because of tight supplies of the ...    More

Market Reports

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report analyzes economic and market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as growth strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies.

Learn more

Pipe, Profile & Tubing Extrusion in North America 2014

U.S. demand for extruded plastics is expected to grow by 3 percent in 2014, with PVC remaining the largest segment.

Plastic pipe will post the strongest gains through 2018, continuing to take market share from competing materials in a range of markets.

Our latest market report provides in-depth analysis of current trends and their financial impact on the pipe, profile and tubing extrusion industry in North America.

Learn more

2014 Injection Molding Industry Report

GROWTH, OPPORTUNITY IN SIGHT FOR INJECTION MOLDERS IN 2014

In the wake of the economic turbulence earlier in this decade, molders today find themselves in much better shape. Molders are gaining a competitive advantage by investing in people, equipment and seeking inroads into new markets on a global scale.

Growth in the injection molding industry is going to be driven by low financing costs and a continued move to reshore some business.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events