Chicago — Jesse Singh has been CEO of CPG International LLC for about a year. But he has a resume that's full of plastics industry experience, dating back to 1989.
That's when he first joined GE Plastics, then a marketing powerhouse that has a long history of training plastics industry CEOs.
CPG is the No. 10 company in Plastics News' ranking of pipe, profile and tubing extruders. For Skokie, Ill.-based CPG, those sales are in profiles, namely products like decking and railing. CPG specializes in building products, and its brands include Azek, TimberTech, Vycom and Scranton Products.
CPG has had private equity ownership since 2005, when New York-based AEA Investors Inc. bought two sheet extruders that were known at the time as Compression Polymers Corp. and Vycom Corp. The Azek trimboards business was a small but promising part of the deal. Eight years later, and after some discussion of an initial public offering that never materialized, the company was sold to new investors, Ares Management LLC and Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan (Teachers).
The company had managed to survive and grow during the Great Recession and a meltdown in the U.S. housing market. When AEA bought CPG, the business had sales of about $220 million and its residential building products line consisted only of Azek trim. During the eight years under AEA, CPG made five acquisitions and invested approximately $55 million for capacity expansion. By 2013, the company had sales of more than $500 million.
Today, Plastics News estimates CPG's total corporate sales at $640 million and its building profile sales at $360 million. CPG has three extrusion plants: two in Scranton, Pa., and one in Wilmington, Ohio.
Singh joined CPG as president and CEO in June 2016, replacing Eric Jungbluth, who retired. Singh said his experience at GE Plastics, and a 14-year stint at 3M, prepared him for the top job at CPG, where he's cast in a familiar role: replacing products made from traditional materials with plastics.
Singh recently sat down with Plastics News Editor Don Loepp in Chicago to talk about the business.
Q: Tell me about your previous plastics industry experience.
Singh: I spent eight years at General Electric, including six years at GE Plastics. I served in industry manager and marketing manager roles in health care, packaging and furniture. It was in the early 1990s, and my focus was on replacing traditional materials with plastics. One big one at the time was replacing five-gallon water containers with polycarbonate.
After GE, I moved into consulting. Then I had a string of jobs with 3M, rising to chief commercial officer for the entire company.
Q: You must have been headhunted a lot in that role. What got you interested in becoming CEO of CPG?
Singh: What I liked about this particular business was that it took me back to my old GE Plastics days, as a material substitution play. Construction is a vast market. For us, we're replacing a traditional material, in our case wood and phenolics, with a better thermoplastic solution. That's a story where I'm very comfortable, and it's very appealing.
We have healthy growth opportunity, differentiated manufacturing, differentiated technology. That's very similar to my experience at 3M.
Q: What does CPG have planned for the future? Are you getting into new products?
Singh: I think there's an ongoing opportunity for material science to develop better solutions. I think we have a value proposition for consumers that is pretty significant. And that's even going to become more important.
Even with housing starts at the level where they are now, the quality of wood is already suffering. And it's not like wood quality is going to improve.
Q: What's in the future for CPG? Acquisitions? An initial public offering?
Singh: We could do an acquisition, but it's got to fit with what we do. We're not going to be a commodity player. We have the ability to have a profile like 3M, as a technology play.
We'll look at selective acquisitions, and we are making additional organic technology developments.
We feel like we can scale and be significantly bigger than we are now, and not just in decking or rail.
Q: Plastics News had a story in February 2016 that Azek was entering the siding category. Is that still happening?
Singh: That's still a market where we think our capabilities over the long run fit very well. How we get there is something we're still working on.