Lamson & Sessions Co., under fire from an investment group that wants Lamson to sell its PVC pipe business, has hired New York adviser Perella Weinberg Partners to explore options to boost shareholder value.
The announcement comes three weeks after a contentious Ramius Capital Group LLC called on Lamson management to hire an investment bank to explore a sale of the pipe unit or the entire firm.
Jim Abel, Lamson's executive vice president and chief financial officer, acknowledged the Feb. 12 announcement is connected to the pressure from Ramius, which owns 9 percent of common stock and is now the largest stockholder. However, he said Lamson has conducted such outside analyses of options before - in private.
``It is something that we periodically review. ... Due to the recent activism in our stock, we chose to make it public,'' Abel said by telephone Feb. 12.
The Beachwood, Ohio-based firm said Perella Weinberg will study options, including a sale of certain assets or the entire building products company, formation of joint ventures, a change to the company's capital structure and continuing implementation of Lamson & Session's current business plan.
Abel said the plan includes looking at acquisitions. That strategy is opposed by New York-based Ramius, which launched a campaign in early December to encourage Lamson to sell off the pipe business. In a letter to Lamson, Ramius called the PVC pipe business ``highly cyclical, volatile and a distraction to the management team.'' Ramius contends the pipe operations are hurting the overall value of Lamson, which also makes plastic enclosures, fittings, wiring outlet boxes and conduit.
On Jan. 19, Ramius announced it had boosted its ownership stake to 9 percent, up from 6 percent. Ramius again urged the company to sell the pipe unit - citing the announcement a few days before that PVC pipe giant J-M Manufacturing Co. Inc. is buying PW Eagle Inc. The deal ``further demonstrates the current market demand for assets similar to [Lamson's] pipe business,'' Ramius told Lamson.
If management and company directors decide the pipe business is a ``core piece'' of Lamson and should not be separated by a sale, ``then the company should immediately explore'' the sale of the entire company, Ramius said in a letter.
Ramius Capital did not return a telephone call seeking comment.