Steelcase Sells Marine Parts Firm

September 5, 2003
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LOWELL — When selling off its marine parts business, Steelcase Inc. didn’t want to make a deal with just anybody.

In Brunswick Corp., a leader in the boating and marine parts industry, Steelcase connected with a buyer that plans to invest in the Lowell-based Attwood Corp. that until a year ago produced plastic injection-molded parts for office seating. When Steelcase decided to outsource the seating parts in a cost-cutting move, the office furniture maker was left with little reason to continue owning Attwood Corp. as a business unit.

“At that point it was really beginning to make less and less sense to own a marine parts business. We agreed that a buyer that provided better value to Attwood is best for Attwood,” Steelcase spokeswoman Jeanine Hill said.

Steelcase closed Aug. 29 on the sale of Attwood to Lake Forest, Ill.-based Brunswick Corp. for $47.9 million in cash. The sale will boost Steelcase’s second-quarter bottom line by 12 cents to 14 cents per share when it reports earnings on Sept. 24. Brunswick will also assume certain liabilities.

The sale follows a long-held policy by Steelcase to focus on primary operations, while giving Attwood an owner in the marine industry that can provide the company the investment and support it needs to grow.

“This transaction enables us to more intently focus on our core business and strategy of providing innovative products and solutions that help people in offices around the world to work more effectively,” Steelcase CEO James Hackett said. “At the same time, transitioning this business to a strategic buyer like Brunswick Corp. provides an excellent opportunity for the people associated with Attwood to grow and prosper moving forward.”

Attwood was founded in Lowell in 1905. Steelcase acquired the company in 1964. The company, a producer of marine parts and accessories, employs about 200 people at its facility in Lowell and about two dozen in Georgia.

Steelcase was not actively courting a buyer for Attwood, which has annual sales of about $56 million. The sale came after Brunswick approached Steelcase, Hill said.

Brunswick, with 2002 sales of $3.7 billion, produces boats, including the Sea Ray and Bayliner lines, and Mercury and Mariner marine engines. Attwood’s acquisition furthers Brunswick’s strategy to secure a larger share of the parts and accessories segment of the marine industry.

“Attwood’s strong sales, marketing and customer service, product quality and operations were very compelling,” said Randy Gray, vice president and general manager of Brunswick Boat Parts and Accessories

The company plans to fold Attwood into its Brunswick Boat Group as swiftly and efficiently as possible, Gray said.    

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