DETROIT — Johnson Controls Inc. plans to salvage a $900 million seating contract with General Motors Corp. by launching a Detroit-based, minority-owned automotive supplier with a business group led by two well-known black business executives.
The joint venture, to be called Bridgewater Interiors LLC, will be led by Ron Hall, president of the Michigan Minority Business Development Council. He will serve as president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board for Bridgewater, which will inherit a five-year deal with GM.
William Pickard, chairman of Roseville, Mich.-based Regal Plastics Co., will serve on Bridgewater's board of directors. The third member of the minority business group, called Epsilon LLC, will be Willie Davis, a California businessman who played for the National Football League's Green Bay Packers in the 1960s.
Epsilon will own 51 percent of Bridgewater, making it a minority supplier. Hall said the company will be capitalized with $2 million and long-term debt from an undetermined local bank.
``It will be our job to raise 51 percent of that $2 million,'' he said.
Bridgewater will be housed in a recently completed, 100,000-square-foot building in Detroit. The firm has hired 33 hourly workers and 22 salaried workers, Hall said. He expects to hire a total of 210 within the next year. The company will begin production in July.
JCI's Plymouth, Mich.-based automotive systems had received the GM contract in 1996 as part of a venture it formed with Sterling Heights, Mich.-based Chivas Products Ltd. In October 1997, Chivas filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, jeopardizing the contract.
``We originally had that joint venture with Chivas and then had to go find a new partner,'' JCI spokesman Dave Roznowski said.
Chivas' assets were sold in March to Chivas CEO Joseph Anderson Jr. and Warren, Mich.-based Continental Plastics Co. for $12.3 million. JCI made a failed $11.6 million offer.
Hall said he already has talked about Bridgewater with executives from foreign automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.
``They all want to increase minority supplying,'' Hall said. ``I fully expect to do business with them and will visit my friends at Ford, as well.''
His main partner in Epsilon, Pickard, is part of a joint venture to build blow molded fuel tanks in southwest Detroit with Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Walbro Automotive Corp.
Pickard's Regal Plastics, an injection molding company that supplies the auto industry, has annual sales of about $48 million.