Borden, Inc. History
Columbus, Ohio 43215-3799
Telephone: (614) 225-4000
Fax: (614) 225-3410
Incorporated: 1899 as Borden Condensed Milk Company
Sales: $5.77 billion (1996)
SICs: 2034 Dried & Dehydrated Fruits, Vegetables & Soup Mixes; 2096 Potato Chips, Corn Chips & Similar Snacks; 2098 Macaroni, Spaghetti, Vermicelli & Noodles; 2099 Food Preparations, Not Elsewhere Classified; 2821 Plastics Materials, Nonvulcanizable Elastomers & Synthetic Resins; 2891 Adhesives & Sealants; 3089 Plastic Products, Not Elsewhere Classified
We are dedicated to building consumer focused food brands serving people around the world, enriching their eating experience every day with great tasting, wholesome, grain-based meal solutions. We accomplish this because we are a uniquely capable organization energized by common purpose and shared values. Our growth and shared success will be driven by our singular focus on meeting consumer needs through innovation. Through the pursuit of this mission and realization of our Vision, we will benefit our consumers, customers, suppliers, and communities as well as our associates and owners. We will become the "World's Most Admired Food Company."
The Borden, Inc. of the late 1990s is a diversified producer of pasta (including Catelli, Classico, Creamette, and other brands), snacks (Wise, Moore's, Quinlan), and bouillon and dry soup (Wyler's); consumer adhesives (Elmer's, Krazy Glue); and formaldehyde, resins, coatings, and other industrial chemicals. Following an overly aggressive consumer products acquisition drive from 1986 to 1991, the company ran up huge losses in 1992 and 1993 primarily because it had accumulated a scattered collection of unintegrated brands--many of them of the minor variety. Borden was consequently taken private in March 1995 when investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) paid $2 billion for the company. Under KKR's guidance, Borden subsequently underwent a major restructuring, shedding numerous brands--including Cracker Jack, Eagle Brand, Cremora, and ReaLemon--and entire businesses, including the dairy business upon which the company was founded, its global packaging unit, its consumer wallcoverings business, and the Borden Foods cheese business. As one of the oldest and most widely known companies in the United States--a company best known through most of its history as a dairy company--Borden has undergone a 1990s transformation that has been particularly dramatic.
Earliest Roots in Condensed Milk
Gail Borden, Jr., the company's founder, was born in 1801 in Norwich, New York. When his family migrated west, they stopped in Kentucky and Indiana Territory. Borden then moved to Mississippi before settling in Galveston, Texas. Along the way he worked as a surveyor, school teacher, farmer, and government official. He edited the first permanent newspaper in Texas, the Telegraph & Texas Register, and is said to have written the famous headline "Remember the Alamo."
Borden made a hobby of inventing things. Among his creations was the prairie schooner, an awkward, sail-powered wagon. Another Borden device, the lazy Susan, can now be found in households everywhere. He also concocted the unsavory, yet serviceable, "meat biscuit," a lightweight, nonperishable food suited to travelers. Although the meat biscuit was a commercial failure, it was hailed as a scientific breakthrough and in 1851 Borden was invited to London to receive the Great Council Medal from Queen Victoria.
During his passage back from London, Borden saw several children on board ship die after drinking contaminated milk. Because no one yet understood how to keep milk fresh, spoiled and even poisonous milk was not uncommon. Borden knew that the Shakers used vacuum pans to preserve fruit, and he began experimenting with a similar apparatus in search of a way to preserve milk. After much tinkering, he discovered he could prevent milk from souring by evaporating it over a slow heat in the vacuum. Believing that it resisted spoilage because its water content had been removed, he called his revolutionary product "condensed milk." As Louis Pasteur later demonstrated, however, it was the heat Borden used in his evaporation process that kept the milk from spoiling because it killed the bacteria in fresh milk.
Despite the apparent usefulness of condensed milk, the U.S. Patent office rejected Borden's patent application three times. It was finally accepted on August 19, 1856, after Robert McFarlane, the editor of Scientific American, and John H. Currie, head of a research laboratory, convinced the commissioner of patents of the value of condensed milk. Soon afterward, Borden started a small processing operation near a dairy farm in Wolcottville, Connecticut, and opened a sales office in New York City. Consumers, however, took little notice of canned milk, and, after only a few months in business, sluggish sales forced Borden to return to Texas in need of more capital. Undaunted, he resumed production in 1857 in Burrville, Connecticut, under the name Gail Borden, Jr., and Company.
The second enterprise also struggled financially until Borden met Jeremiah Milbank, a wholesale grocer, banker, and railroad financier. With Milbank's funding they formed a partnership in 1858 known as the New York Condensed Milk Company. Another stroke of fortune came when Borden decided to advertise in an issue of Leslie's Illustrated Weekly, which coincidentally contained an article condemning the unsanitary conditions at city dairies and the practice by many unscrupulous dairymen of adding chalk and eggs to enhance their "swill milk," as it was called. Soon after the magazine appeared, the New York Condensed Milk Company was delivering condensed milk throughout lower Manhattan and in Jersey City, New Jersey.
In 1861 the U.S. government ordered 500 pounds of condensed milk for troops fighting in the Civil War. As the conflict grew, government orders increased, until Borden had to license other manufacturers to keep up with demand. After the war, the New York Condensed Milk Company had a ready-made customer base in both Union and Confederate veterans. To distinguish this product from its new competitors, Borden adopted the American bald eagle as his trademark.
Incorporated in 1899
Gail Borden, Jr., died in 1874, leaving management of the thriving company to his sons, John Gail and Henry Lee, who presided from 1874 to 1884 and 1884 to 1902, respectively. In 1875 the company diversified by offering delivery of fluid milk in New York and New Jersey. Ten years later, it pioneered the use of glass bottles for milk distribution. In 1892 Borden's fluid-milk business was expanded to Chicago and the company began to manufacture evaporated milk. Seven years later, Henry Lee Borden opened the first foreign branch, in Ontario, Canada, bringing to 18 the number of towns in which the company had facilities. In 1899, as fresh and condensed milk sales generated profits of $2 million, the company was incorporated as the Borden Condensed Milk Company.
William J. Rogers, the company's first president from outside the Borden family, took over in 1902. He was succeeded in 1910 by S. Frederick Taylor. Concentrating on its strongholds in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois, Borden built new evaporation facilities and tin can factories, as well as pasteurizing and bottling stations. Local dairy farmers often helped finance the construction, and in return Borden brought stability to milk markets, which at that time were subject to sudden fluctuations, by setting prices for six-month periods. Relations with milk suppliers remained generally friendly until the 1930s, when the market was glutted and farmers charged Borden and other distributors with conspiring to depress prices.
Toward the close of World War I, Borden strengthened its board of directors. Albert G. Milbank, a descendant of Jeremiah Milbank and a founding partner in the New York law firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hope & Webb, was named Borden's first chairman of the board in 1917. The following year, directors from outside the dairy industry were appointed for the first time. These changes reflected Borden's expanded business and helped to make possible its explosive growth in the next decade.
Late 1920s Buying Spree
Under Arthur W. Milburn, the Borden Company, as it was renamed in 1919, embarked on a buying spree that transformed it into a multinational conglomerate. Between 1927 and 1930, it bought more than 200 companies around the country and became the nation's largest distributor of fluid milk. In the process, it entered five new fields: ice cream, cheese, powdered milk, mincemeat, and adhesives. The J.M. Horton Ice Cream Company and the Reid Ice Cream Corporation, which Borden bought in 1928, were both well established on the East Coast. Ice cream fit logically into Borden's fluid-milk operations, as did cheese, which was added in 1929 when Borden acquired the Monroe Cheese Company, Chateau Cheese Company, Ltd., and several other leading producers. Two slightly more adventurous acquisitions proved instrumental in Borden's subsequent development. In 1927, it acquired the Merrell-Soule Company, whose None Such mincemeat and Klim powdered milk were sold throughout the world. Borden relied on the technology behind Klim when it developed instant coffee, coffee creamer, and other powdered foods during World War II.
In 1929 Borden acquired the Casein Company of America in Bainbridge, New York. This small company, which manufactured a cold-water-soluble, water-resistant adhesive from casein, a byproduct of skim milk, became the foundation of Borden's vast chemical operations.
In 1929 Borden became the holding company for four separate companies: Borden's Food Products Company, Inc.; Borden's Dairy Products Company, Inc.; Borden's Ice Cream and Milk Company, Inc.; and Borden's Cheese & Produce Company, Inc. This structure was discontinued in 1936 and the subsidiaries became divisions.
Earnings plunged when the national economy stalled in the 1930s, but, more significantly, new price regulations on fluid milk irreversibly eroded profit margins. With the approval of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, many dairy farmers formed cooperatives to establish prices. Some states established milk-control boards to administer price supports to ensure adequate supplies and low cost to the consumer. Distributors such as Borden were forced to pay more for milk, but were prevented from passing the increased cost on to the consumer. When distributors tried to compensate for thinning margins by manipulating prices in unregulated regions, vehement, sometimes violent protests from farmers and consumers alike followed. In 1938 a federal grand jury in Chicago indicted Borden and several other competitors for antitrust violations. Although the charges were dropped two years later in a consent decree, price regulations continued and profit margins did not improve. Tax hikes and escalating wages in unionized cities such as Chicago also hurt profits.
Also in the 1930s, a line of "prescription products" was introduced. This line, marketed primarily to doctors, included products like Biolac, an evaporated infant food, and a modified milk sugar called Beta Lactose. Eventually these products led to the establishment of a special products division.
Theodore G. Montague, a former dairy owner and operator from Wisconsin, succeeded Milburn as head of Borden in 1937. In an effort to deal with regulatory policies and employee relations, which varied from one state to the next, Montague decentralized management under a system of checks and balances. He promoted low-volume, high-margin manufactured goods like cheese, mincemeat, condensed milk, and especially ice cream--Borden's most popular product and a leading source of income from the late 1930s through World War II.
Chemical Business Expanded in 1930s through 1950s
As it turned out, Montague's most important decision was to cultivate Borden's small adhesives business. By far the largest buyer of the company's glues was the forest products industry, where casein adhesives were used to coat paper and strengthen plywood. This swelling market prompted Borden to build its second glue plant in Seattle in the 1930s. But no sooner had the Seattle factory come on line than stronger, less expensive synthetics threatened to make casein compounds obsolete. Although adhesives accounted for less than one percent of its gross revenues, Montague embraced this new technology, and Borden developed its own urea and formaldehyde glues. These were followed in the early 1940s by even stronger phenol formaldehyde resins. By the 1950s, Borden had become a leading supplier of bonding agents to the lumber industry.
Borden's entry into the raw-chemical business followed naturally from its success in synthetic glues. It built a formaldehyde plant in Springfield, Oregon, to satisfy its own growing demand for this primary ingredient, but soon found that selling formaldehyde to competitors was very profitable. Four additional units were constructed, three in the United States and one in Curitiba, Brazil, in collaboration with Incola, S.A. By the late 1980s, Borden was one of the largest formaldehyde producers in the country.
The man responsible for the expansion of Borden's chemical business was Augustine R. Marusi. Marusi, whose background was in chemical engineering, joined Borden in the early 1950s as a salesman. He was sent to Brazil to oversee the completion of the Curitiba facility, but brought back in 1954 to be made head of the chemical division. He quickly overcame the resistance of the dairymen on the board of directors and steered Borden into printing inks, fertilizers, and the burgeoning new field of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which became a mainstay of the chemical division along with adhesives. In 1954 Borden acquired three small thermoplastics firms that produced PVC resins for use in paper packaging and paint. Then, in 1957, the company began making raw PVC at plants in Illinois and Massachusetts for sale mainly to the phonograph-record and floor-covering industries. Within four years, Borden was manufacturing seven percent of all domestically produced PVC. Borden also developed acetate packaging films commonly used in supermarkets and acquired companies that made vinyl-coated fabrics and wall coverings.
In 1961 Borden and Uniroyal joined forces to build a huge petrochemical complex in Geismar, Louisiana, known as Monochem. Three-quarters of Monochem's output went to other Borden operations; it supplied methanol for Borden's formaldehyde production, vinyl-chloride monomer for its PVC production, and acetylene for its vinyl-acetate production. Over the years, as Borden enlarged Monochem's capacities and added new processes, the company became one of the largest and most integrated chemical companies in the world.
Harold W. Comfort, who became president in 1955 when Montague was made chairman of the board, supported Marusi's activities as a way of freeing the company from dependence on its increasingly less profitable dairy business. Comfort took other measures, too. He made many food acquisitions abroad and promoted foreign sales, especially in South and Central America, where the company faced fewer regulations and competitors than in Europe. While the national supermarket chains that emerged in the 1950s squeezed profits on fluid milk, they created market openings for processed, specialty groceries. Borden developed unique dairy products such as protein-enriched milk, premium-quality ice cream, and, later, diet cheeses, in order to establish supermarket niches. It also began a program of acquiring food manufacturers with well-known or one-of-a-kind items that were successful in the intense competition for supermarket shelf space. Among the companies it took over between 1959 and 1965 were the makers of Snow's seafood chowders (1959); Wyler's bouillon and powdered soft drinks (1961); ReaLemon lemon juice (1962); Cracker Jack candied popcorn and Campfire marshmallows (1964); Wise potato chips (1964); and Bama preserves (1965). In chemicals, too, Borden put new emphasis on its consumer products such as Elmer's Glue-All and Krylon spray paints.
Late 1960s Austerity Program
Marusi's success with the chemical division earned him a promotion to president in 1967 and the distinction of being Borden's first non-dairy CEO. But disappointing performances in Borden's three major divisions--dairy, food, and chemicals--marked the early years of his reign. In response, Marusi announced a number of painful austerity measures. Borden sold its office building in Manhattan, moved its headquarters to Columbus, Ohio, and closed scores of unprofitable dairy facilities. In 1969 alone it took writeoffs totalling $70 million. Marusi also tightened the corporate office's control and greatly improved financial planning. He also doubled the budget for marketing, which had not kept pace with Borden's diversification--although Elsie the Cow had become one of the most widely recognized trademarks in the world since her introduction in 1936, she was of little use in selling PVC. Marusi further enhanced Borden's public relations with a program to contract with minority-owned businesses, an initiative that inspired the National Minority Purchasing Council, which Marusi helped establish.
Throughout this period, Borden's international operations also continued to grow apace. By 1968, the company had acquired or organized chemical interests in Argentina, Mexico, Canada, the Philippines, Colombia, France, Norway, and Nicaragua. Its food interests included companies in Canada, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Mexico, Venezuela, Ireland, Spain, West Germany, and Sweden. In 1968 Borden organized Borden Inc. International, a division that was responsible for all international manufacturing and export operations.
The 1970s were a period of slow growth and cost reductions at Borden. In accordance with company policy, Marusi retired at age 65 in 1979. His impatience with product development had evolved into a management philosophy that Borden maintained into the early 1990s. Unlike other food companies that acquired smaller regional brands, Borden kept its regional brands regional, offering its new subsidiaries steady, cheaper supplies while the subsidiaries provided expertise in penetrating their particular markets. As a result, Borden spent little on national advertising and distribution and had a reduced vulnerability to product failure. Because of this low-profile yet aggressive approach, Marusi's successor, Eugene J. Sullivan, inherited a more efficient company.
Restructured in Early 1980s
Nonetheless, in 1980 Sullivan began a five-year, $1.5 billion restructuring. Intent on increasing shareholders' return on investment, Sullivan consolidated operations by cutting 5,000 employees and selling 48 companies in his six-year tenure.
Yet Borden grew during this period too. Sullivan purchased 33 companies--mostly in the packaged consumer products and specialty chemicals areas, two growth fields for Borden--and redirected the company toward consumer foods. Most of Sullivan's purchases were food businesses, and he built for Borden the second-largest market share for pasta and snack foods, two areas Borden emphasized heavily because of their potential for growth.
As the second in a line of three CEOs who ascended through the chemical industry, Sullivan still found it difficult to abandon the chemical market altogether. Marusi had kept Borden's chemical businesses but had found it increasingly difficult to keep a giant food company on top of dramatic changes in the chemical industry. Chemical manufacturing has significantly higher margins than food, but a depressed petrochemical market in the mid-1980s forced Sullivan to reevaluate Borden's ability to maintain long-term growth in the industry. As a result, Sullivan strengthened Borden's specialty chemicals and integrated international operations with domestic (both in food and chemicals), hoping to make production and marketing more efficient.
Acquisitions Spree, 1986--91
Compared to its competitors, Borden was considered a conservative, even unimaginative, company by analysts when R. J. Ventres took over as CEO in 1986. Its success in managing regional food companies was overlooked because it did not create national brands. Ventres soon changed Borden's image with a feverish spate of acquisitions, purchasing 91 companies, for a total $1.9 billion, between 1986 and 1991. These were mostly companies like Meadow Gold Dairies, Inc., that dovetailed nicely with existing operations. In 1987 Borden's 23 purchases--for a total of $442.6 million--made it the nation's most active acquirer according to Mergers & Acquisitions. Its $180 million purchase of the Prince Company that year made Borden the undisputed leader in U.S. pasta sales, as the owner of nine companies nationwide, representing nearly a third of the market. In 1988 Borden acquired 24 more operations for a total of $379.9 million, while in 1989 the company spent $264.3 million to make an additional 15 acquisitions.
Ventres also rediscovered the value of the company's dairy operations, which generate high-volume cash flow with little inventory expense because of rapid turnover. And Borden succeeded in doubling its snack food sales by 1989 through its growing national network of regional brands and its penetration of international markets in snack foods through acquisition.
At the same time, Ventres continued to consolidate. In 1987 the company's stock buy-back program left only 73.7 million shares outstanding, a 22 percent reduction since Marusi's retirement eight years earlier, while the company's basic chemicals and PVC resins operations were sold to the public as Borden Chemicals and Plastics Limited Partnership, further distancing the company from raw-chemical manufacturing. The company retained an initial 25 percent interest in this partnership, then reduced it to a two percent general partnership interest.
Huge 1992 and 1993 Losses Led to 1995 KKR Takeover
When A. S. D'Amato, a chemical engineer who had spent 30 years in Borden's chemical unit, took over--for the retiring Ventres&mdash CEO in October 1991 and as chairman in February 1992, he inherited a company that his predecessor had transformed from a chemical company with a significant dairy business as a sideline to a widely diversified packaged foods company with its chemical unit as a significant sideline and an increasingly less important dairy business. In doing so, Ventres had increased Borden's revenues from $5 billion in 1986 to $7.2 billion in 1991. The down side of this acquisitions-fueled growth was that Borden was an increasingly less profitable company, in large part due to management's failure to integrate its disparate brands, which were largely left to fend for themselves. For example, the company sold both pasta and pasta sauce, but did so through separate sales forces without any coordination. Already in 1991, net income fell to $294.9 million from the $363.6 million of 1990. Furthermore, Borden was much less profitable than other food companies.
D'Amato attempted to right the company ship through a sweeping reorganization launched in late 1992. The effort aimed to turn Borden into a more integrated company, which focused more on building national brands than on supporting numerous small regional ones. Unfortunately, this strategy backfired in a number of ways in a number of areas. For example, Borden put most of its marketing effort in the pasta area behind the Creamette brand, but this program only increased that brand's sales marginally while Borden's unsupported regional pasta brands suffered declining sales. Meanwhile, the dairy business was hurt badly by an unwise decision not to lower its milk prices after the price of raw milk fell; because of Borden's premium prices, many consumers switched to the brands of competitors, who had lowered their prices.
After posting a net loss of $364.4 million in 1992, in part as a result of a $377.2 million restructuring charge, 1993 was even worse. In December 1993 Borden announced yet another restructuring program, this one aiming to trim its operations so that it could concentrate on a smaller number of core areas: dairy, specialty foods, pasta, and industrial products. That month the company posted a pretax charge of $752.3 million, leading to a full-year net loss of $630.7 million. Much of the charge was incurred for the proposed divestiture of several businesses, including North American snacks, seafood, jams, and jellies. Under pressure for his ouster from institutional investors, D'Amato resigned that same month, and was replaced as CEO by Ervin R. Shames, who had once headed General Foods USA and Kraft USA and whom D'Amato had hired as president and chief operating officer in June 1993. Frank J. Tasco, a member of the board of directors since 1988, took over as chairman.
In the first several months of 1994, several operations were divested--a foodservice unit, an ice cream business in Japan, Bennett's sauces, clam products, and Bama jams and jellies--but a buyer for the large snack foods unit could not be found. In need of capital to invest in the brands it wished to retain, Borden accepted a $2 billion takeover offer from KKR that was announced in September 1994. On March 14, 1995, the takeover was complete and Borden had become a private company after 68 years of public trading, in an unusual transaction whereby shareholders of Borden were given shares of stock in RJR Nabisco Holdings Corp.--which KKR had acquired in a 1989 leveraged buyout--in exchange for their Borden shares. KKR's C. Robert Kidder became chairman and CEO of Borden.
Mid-1990s, KKR-Led Restructuring
In May 1995, Kidder began a dramatic restructuring of Borden. The company was reorganized into eleven business units, several of which were subsequently divested: Borden Foods Corporation, the largest unit; Borden/Meadow Gold Dairies, Inc., the dairy business, which was sold in September 1997 for $435 million to Mid-American Dairymen Inc. (Borden licensed to Mid-American the use of Elsie the Cow, but retained ownership of the trademark); Wise Foods, Inc., the North American snacks business; Wilhelm Weber GmbH, the German bakery operation, sold in December 1996; Elmer's Products, Inc., owner of the strong Elmer's and Krazy Glue brands; Borden Decorative Products, Inc., maker of consumer wallcoverings, sold for $320 million in late 1997; Borden Chemical, Inc., maker of industrial adhesives, resins, and coatings; Borden Global Packaging, divested to AEP Industries, Inc. in October 1996, with Borden receiving $255 million in cash plus a 34 percent equity stake in AEP; Borden Chemicals and Plastics L.P., of which Borden continued to maintain its two percent interest; Borden Services Company, which in 1997 became reSOURCE PARTNER, INC., a provider of infrastructure management services, both within and outside of Borden; and Borden Coatings and Graphics, which in 1996 was merged into Borden Chemical. Each unit was freestanding, sharply focused on its own line of business, had its own CEO and board of directors, and was supported with its own operating resources and capital base. This structure provided degrees of both decentralized (within Borden as a whole) and centralized management (within the separate units). In 1996 and 1997, the six remaining units of the initial eleven--Borden Foods, Wise Foods, Elmer's, Borden Chemical, Borden Chemicals and Plastics, and reSOURCE PARTNER--were joined by two more units, bringing the total to eight. In 1996 Borden Decor was formed out of existing operations in commercial wallcoverings and vinyl films and vinyls for various industrial uses. The following year, the corporate staff of Borden were included within a new unit called Borden Capital Management Partners.
In early 1997, Borden Foods announced a new strategy whereby it would focus on "great tasting, wholesome, grain-based meal solutions"--in other words, pasta, pasta sauces, and bouillon and dry soup. This focus led to the late 1997 divestment of a host of longstanding Borden brands, which collectively accounted for about half of the $2 billion in 1996 Borden Foods sales: Cracker Jack, sold to PepsiCo, Inc.'s Frito Lay Company; Borden cheese, bought by Mid-American Dairymen Inc.; and Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk, Cremora nondairy creamer, ReaLemon and ReaLime reconstituted juices, Kava acid-neutralized instant coffee, None Such mincemeat, and Borden canned eggnog, acquired as a group by a new entity called Eagle Family Foods, Inc. Much of the proceeds from these and other divestments were used to pay down company debt.
As of late 1997, the transformation of Borden had progressed considerably, but was not yet complete. Additional divestments were likely, but more importantly, the company was already beginning to grow again through strategic, measured acquisitions. In November 1997 Borden Chemical announced that it would acquire Melamine Chemicals, Inc., a Donaldsonville, Louisiana-based producer and marketer of melamine crystal, a substance used to make materials for adhesive, laminate, and coatings applications--a perfect fit with the unit's existing operations. It thus appeared that Borden, Inc. was well on the way to recovery.
Principal Operating Units: Borden Foods Corporation; Wise Foods, Inc.; Elmer's Products, Inc.; Borden Chemical, Inc.; Borden Decor; reSOURCE PARTNER, INC.; Borden Chemicals and Plastics L.P. (2%); Borden Capital Management Partners.
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Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 22. St. James Press, 1998.comments powered by Disqus