Plastic and steel strapping company Acme Packaging Corp. is close to being sold to main competitor Illinois Tool Works Inc., according to a union official who negotiated a settlement with the companies.
Mike Mezo, bargaining director for United Steel Workers of America District 7 in Gary, Ind., said Aug. 7 that a letter of intent was expected to be signed in the next several days and just needed some final tweaking. Mezo negotiated the contract for USWA Local 1053, based in Tinley Park, Ill.
``They told us it's a done deal,'' Mezo said. ``We expect that [the sale] will be closed now.''
Acme Chief Financial Officer Marty Staniszewski declined comment Aug. 7 on a potential sale, and an ITW spokesman could not be reached.
The acquisition would merge two of the largest makers of strapping for packaging uses in North America. ITW's Signode division in Glenview, Ill., is considered the leader, with about 60 percent of the market, Mezo said.
In 1998, ITW Signode and Acme controlled about 80 percent of the North American steel strapping market, according to a report on the Web site of Tinley Park-based Acme. The firm entered the plastics strapping business that year to grow in a maturing industry, the report said.
Acme installed two strapping lines in 1998 and now makes the protective products from both polyester and polypropylene. Company sales are estimated at around $120 million annually.
Acme has about 250 union employees and about 100 salaried employees, Mezo said. The union agreement, binding until April, calls for ITW to keep the plant open and not shift orders to other facilities, he said. Wages and benefits will be preserved during that time, he said.
``Time will tell if ITW buys this with the intention of making a go at it,'' Mezo said. ``But ITW is huge in strapping, and they just got bigger. We hope they do right by the workers.''
ITW, also in Glenview, offers much more than strapping. The Signode division is one of about 600 decentralized business units. It operates a large recycling operation for its plastic strapping, using post-consumer PE and PET bottles for its Signode Tenax product.
The planned sale is not a surprise to Acme workers, Mezo said. Acme's parent, Acme Metals Inc. of Riverdale, Ill., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors in November 2001. At the time, company officials told the union that Acme Metals wanted to jettison the strapping operation after emerging from bankruptcy, Mezo said. Acme came out of bankruptcy in late 2002.