Updated — Ascend Performance Materials has a new CEO in Phil McDivitt.
McDivitt had served as president and COO of the Houston-based materials maker since joining the firm in April 2015. He now also will serve as president and as a board member. CEO Frederic Poses will retire and step down from the board, officials said in an April 3 news release.
Chairman Barry Siadat said in the release that since joining Ascend, McDivitt “has made important contributions to building a stronger team and culture, improving financial and operating disciplines and creating a more dynamic commercial organization.” He added that McDivitt “has demonstrated his readiness to transition to CEO.”
Officials added that in his two years with the firm, McDivitt “has greatly enhanced the company's leadership position in the performance materials industry through the development of a multiyear growth strategy,” and through an increased focus on reliability in the nylon 66 value chain and by acceleration of new product and process technologies.
“Nylon 6/6 is our business, and that focus is how we've grown to be the industry leader,” McDivitt said in the release. “Our advancements in technology, processes and materials development mean that our customers can count on us to deliver innovative solutions.”
Siadat also acknowledged Poses for his long history of leadership in the materials and manufacturing industries. “Fred's efforts have positioned Ascend to be the leader it is today, and we would not be in such a strong position without him,” he said.
Ascend board member G. Peter D'Aloia also will retire from the firm's board. Officials said that D'Aloia — who also served in various financial leadership roles, including CFO, at Ascend — “provided leadership and contributions that helped drive the firm's strong financial growth and performance.”
In a phone interview with Plastics News, McDivitt said that “at the forefront, we want to be a leader in nylon 6/6 and its chain, given our focus and our high level of integrated assets.”
He added that the long-term economics of Ascend's North American location is “a real strength” that allows the firm “to move material around the world without the need for heavy regional investments.”
Higher feedstock costs have sent nylon 6/6 prices higher in recent months. “It's important for any business to achieve value and to get paid for what we do,” McDivitt said. “As we develop new products, that helps create value for our customers and for the industries they serve.”
The overall nylon 6/6 market recorded demand growth of 3-4 percent in 2016, although McDivitt said that Ascend's growth level was higher than that. He expects similar results in 2017.
The automotive market will continue to play a big role for Ascend, with vehicles using more nylon 6/6 per vehicle, even if the number of vehicles built levels out. “We should still see good growth in automotive, even in a fairly flat build environment,” McDivitt said.
Ascend also will continue to work on new, high-temperature grades of nylon 6/6. “High-temperature and thermal-resistant grades have a lot of value to us,” McDivitt said. “Engineers are very interested in using nylon 6/6 because of its good price and performance.”
“We're trying to have a more balanced portfolio to explore technologies and applications that give us more diversity,” he added.
Ascend employs 3,000 worldwide and is one of the world's largest makers of nylon 6/6 resins and compounds. Private equity firm SK Capital Partners of New York has owned Ascend since 2009, when it bought the integrated nylon business of Solutia Inc.
At the K 2016 trade show in Germany late last year, Ascend officials said that strong demand from automotive and other markets is leading the firm to add a twin-screw extrusion line at its plant in Foley, Ala., in the first half of 2017. Ascend also has been steadily adding polymerization capacity at its Vydyne-brand nylon 6/6 resin plants in Pensacola, Fla., and Greenwood, S.C.