In plastics equipment, one event dominated the headlines for all of 1992: Crown Cork & Seal Co. Inc.'s hostile takeover move against Van Dorn Co. and its injection press-making unit, Van Dorn Plastic Machinery Co.
After one year of back-and-forth fighting — and some infighting within Van Dorn — German industrial giant Mannesmann AG emerged as the proud owner of Van Dorn Plastic Machinery in Strongsville, Ohio. The deal ended up benefiting both firms, officials said.
Mannesmann AG paired Van Dorn with Mannesmann Demag Kunststofftechnik of Schwaig, Germany. Both firms began selling each other's machinery, suddenly giving Van Dorn, which began making presses after World War II, a global presence.
``We were only beginning to approach an international market, and we had very little real international representation or sales,'' said Sid Rains, vice president of sales for Van Dorn, now known as Van Dorn Demag Corp. Its German sister company is now called Demag Ergotech GmbH.
The deal also helped raise Demag's profile in the U.S. market, said Gerhard Massfelder, general sales manager of the German company.
``Van Dorn did not only bring in a factory. They also brought to our company a sales network and a service network.'' Massfelder said.
The companies share some ideas and designs. The two-platen Caliber is the first machine to be built at both locations, Germany and Strongsville.
Despite the rosy picture today, 1992 was a difficult year. In behind-the-scenes dealing, packaging and closure giant Crown Cork offered $16 a share, but was told Van Dorn was not for sale. Crown Cork launched the takeover attempt Jan. 7, 1992, by publicly offering $150 million, or $18 a share. The New York Stock Exchange halted trading after the stock soared from $12 to $18.50.
From the beginning, the plan called for Mannesmann AG to own Van Dorn's injection press business. Crown Cork said it would keep Van Dorn's metal container business and spin off Van Dorn Plastic Machinery.
Van Dorn rejected the offer. Then Crown Cork twice upped its offer, topping out at $167 million, or $20 a share. After Van Dorn rejected that, Crown withdrew.
Meanwhile, a group of dissident shareholders led by high-profile Wall Street arbitrageur Guy Wyser-Pratte and institutional investors pressed for a sale. Management resisted, led by William G. Pryor, Van Dorn Plastics Machinery president and chief executive officer. A turning point was the 1992 May shareholders meeting. One of the dissidents, William Frazier, won a seat on the board of directors. Longtime Van Dorn executives Lawrence Jones and his son, Robert, came out in favor of selling.
While this was going on, Bernard O'Donnell died, leaving Van Dorn Plastic Machinery without a vice president of sales and marketing. Rains returned to the post he had held until 1989 to run an injection molding plant in Akron, Ohio.
In late September, Van Dorn's directors gave in, announcing all or part would be sold. According to Plastics News stories, Japan's Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd., Sandretto Industrie SpA of Italy and Germany's Battenfeld GmbH all had expressed interest in Van Dorn. (All three have since started U.S. assembly operations.) Van Dorn finally accepted Crown Cork's offer of $21 a share, or $175 million. Crown Cork announced in December 1992 its sale of the plastics equipment unit to Mannesmann for $79 million. Other aggressive acquisitions have built Mannesmann's plastics machinery business into the world's largest. On Jan. 1, 1998, Mannesmann grouped the firms into Mannesmann Plastics Machinery AG. MPM is the world's largest plastics equipment maker, with sales topping $1.4 billion. As for Van Dorn, its sales have about doubled to more than $200 million.