This month's news that Fredman Bag Co. has been sold wasn't a surprise. As Jim Johnson noted, Tim Fredman has known for years that the time was coming to sell the 134-year-old Milwaukee-based flexible packaging company.
After five generations of Fredman family ownership, there simply wasn't a clear successor to run the company for a sixth generation. So now Fredman Bag is owned by a private equity firm.
That's a familiar story to Plastics News readers: a family-owned company selling to PE investors. I checked our story archives and found a 1994 story about Pro Corp. being sold to a private equity investor.
Pro Corp. was founded in 1845, so it even predates Fredman Bag.
There's nothing wrong with PE ownership. In fact, three of this year's four finalists for PN Processor of the Year are owned by PE firms. That's a clear sign that PE ownership and overall excellence are not mutually exclusive.
But the sale of Fredman Bag has me thinking that we should take a moment to recognize the plastics industry's multigeneration family-owned companies.
"The Insightful Leader" podcast from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Business recently covered the pros and cons of joining a family-owned company. Jennifer Pendergast, a clinical professor at Kellogg, noted family-owned companies "significantly outperform" their nonfamily counterparts.
Need an example? Last month I visited Hoffer Plastics Corp., a South Elgin, Ill.-based injection molder that in a few weeks will receive our Sustained Excellence award. Hoffer recently transitioned to its third generation of family leadership.
More recently, I stopped in at Bridgville Plastics Inc. in Stevensville, Mich., and met its three generations of family owners. T.J. Moneta, the youngest, joined in 2021 after working for other companies for seven years.
T.J. told me the secret to coming to work for his dad: "You have to have that mindset that my dad is the boss, how can I make his life easier and also make more money, as opposed to saying we should do it my way. So as long as you have a good working relationship, you can conquer any problem."
From my experience, I'd add that it is also very important to nurture a great culture. That goes both for PE-owned companies and family-owned companies transitioning to a new generation of leadership.
Don Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.