The Decade’s Top Five

This month is not only the start of a new year, but a new decade. It’s come upon us before we have even figured out what to name the last one—the tens? The teens? The Roaring Twenties are about to be replaced by a whole new set of 2020s.

As 2019 ended, many people and organizations (including ours) focused on the biggest stories of the year. So I thought, instead, I would reflect upon the biggest stories of the last decade. I had quite a cadre of events to pick from as I searched my memory, our archives and statistics to come up with the top five.

The picks represent solely my opinion, upon a background of a lifetime in the glass information business. Here then are my “Top Five Business Stories of the Decade 2010-2019.”

  1. The Sale of PPG’s Glass Division to Vitro (2016).

From a business standpoint, it made sense for the publically traded PPG to divest of its glass business. It had added and grown its other business segments, including chemicals and coatings, to much greater heights than its leaders felt glass could ever achieve. In short, the foundation of the business (after all it was originally Pittsburgh Plate Glass) was no longer of interest. Luckily, the company had a soft landing into Vitro, but it was still the most stunning news in the decade.

  1. The Sale of C.R. Laurence (CRL) to CRH (2015)

It wasn’t so much the sale as the price of the purchase—an eye-popping $1.3 billion—that was the dazzling twist in this real-life story of the American dream. Many in the industry remember CRL from its early days as part warehouse, part glazing hardware story. Almost everyone had watched and interacted with industry icon Don Friese as he consolidated ownership and grew the value of the business, until he sold it and Forbes Magazine ran an article titled “Meet America’s Newest Billionaire.”

  1. The Sale of Guardian to the Koch Brothers (2016)

Everyone knew it was coming. After the death of owner William Davidson, a sale was expected. So while this move to the Koch organization kept ownership in the United States, it made the primary manufacturer part of a highly visible international holding company.

  1. Apogee Enterprises Inc. Buys EFCO Corp. (2017)

Ten years after it was purchased from the Fuldner family by Pella, EFCO Corp. was sold to Apogee for $195 million dollars. While Pella’s purchase the decade before had left many scratching their heads, Apogee’s did not. “EFCO is a growing and profitable company, with annual revenues of more than $250 million that are largely generated from less cyclical mid-size and small commercial projects, a target Apogee growth sector,” said CEO Joe Puishys at the time. “… We expect to generate $10 million to $15 million in annual synergies and operational efficiencies by fiscal 2020.”

  1. The Rise and Roll Ups of the Mega-Fabricators (2012-2019)

The 2010s was the decade private equity rediscovered the glass industry. And when it did, it went on a buying spree fueled by bargain prices left over from the Great Recession of the 2000s, as well as aging private ownership. Take for example, Consolidated Glass Holdings (CGH). The company, which is owned by Grey Mountain Partners, manages a group of subsidiary companies, mostly acquired in the last decade. These include Global Security Glazing, Columbia Commercial Building Products, Dlubak Specialty Glass, Solar Seal, North American Specialty Glass (NASG) and, in a deal done in late 2016,  J.E. Berkowitz LP.

CGH is not unique in this regard. Take Sun Capital’s Trulite, which has integrated a number of companies into its holdings including AGC’s U.S. fabrication assets in 2015, the VFG Group in 2016 and Texas Tempered in 2014, among others.

Let me know what you think of my choices.

And again, Happy New Year. Let’s hope this decade becomes the “Soaring 20s.”