Wilbert Plastic Services Inc., a major injection molder and industrial thermoformer, has a new financial owner.
Alleghany Capital Corp., a subsidiary of publicly traded investment company Alleghany Corp., has acquired Belmont, N.C.-based WPS under a new subsidiary, Piedmont Manufacturing Group LLC.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
WPS had been privately held by more than 120 shareholders. President and CEO Greg Botner will remain, as will the company's 600 employees.
Botner said the former shareholders had owned the company since it was founded in 1966.
"Our shareholder base was not as interested in investing back into the business; they were desiring liquidity," Botner said in a telephone interview.
"In this business, you need to have a long-term plan for growth, and that's why we chose Alleghany. We had other options," Botner said.
WPS sold its automotive business to Engineered Plastic Components Inc. in April 2019. That sale included injection molding facilities in Bellevue, Ohio, and Lebanon, Ky., and an engineering center in Troy, Mich.
After selling the auto portion of the business, WPS was able to reorganize and improve its finances to prepare to sell the remainder of the operation, Botner said.
The deal with Alleghany may give folks a feeling of déjà vu. That's because, for the first time since 2009, the Wilbert plastics processing and burial vault businesses are back under the same corporate umbrella.
Overland Park, Kan.-based Wilbert Funeral Services Inc. (WFSI) split from Wilbert Inc. in 2009. Alleghany acquired WFSI in 2017.
"Although WPS has a shared history with and remains a supplier to Wilbert Funeral Services ... the two businesses are distinct, with very different capabilities and customers," said Udi Toledano, chairman of Alleghany Capital.
"As a result, there are no plans to combine WPS and WFSI, which is reflected in the formation of Piedmont Manufacturing as our fifth platform company in Alleghany Capital's industrial segment," Toledano said.
Historically speaking, the Wilbert plastics business started as Thermoform Plastics Inc. in St. Paul, Minn., making plastic liners for Wilbert's concrete burial vaults. The company grew quickly in the 1990s and early 2000s, with acquisitions including Alltrista Corp.'s thermoforming business in 2001 and injection molder Easley Custom Plastics in 2011.
Today WPS supplies customers in industrial, commercial, transportation, recreational, medical and other industries. The company's capabilities include design and engineering, painting, robotic trimming, logistics and inventory management.
Botner said WPS posted 2020 thermoforming sales of $67 million and injection molding sales of about $100 million. WPS does injection molding in Harrisburg, N.C., and Easley, S.C., and thermoforming in Belmont, N.C., and White Bear Lake, Minn.
Plastics News ranks Wilbert at No. 28 among North American injection molders and No. 113 among injection molders for the region.
David Van Geyzel, president and CEO of Alleghany Capital, said in a news release that Alleghany has a "quasi-autonomous operating model" and the new ownership "will not impact WPS' day-to-day operations."
Rob Hulick, principal at Alleghany Capital, added that the new owners expect "to provide the company with the resources and follow-on capital to invest in organic initiatives and add-on acquisitions."