Leather chemistry that works

The Redwood Blog
Published:  16 September, 2014
Mike Redwood

Any MBA graduate, and we have a lot in the leather industry, knows that most mergers fail: at least for the new owners, employees and customers. In the last 25 years I've been involved in three big ones and two have been disasters. Back in the late eighties Pittards bought Garner Booth and went pretty much overnight from a rich company with a clear strategy to a poor one that was totally confused. It ended with a Chapter 11 process in the mid-noughties and thankfully since then the company has built a new strategy and regained a lot of its historic poise. 

My other difficult experience was when Acushnet, the golf business, bought Cobra for just over $700 million only to find what they had bought was not worth it! and indeed was just a huge distraction. They actually wrote $500 million off the balance sheet a couple of years later in recognition of this and some other errors. Unlike Pittards, the company was strong and Acushnet continued to go from strength to strength.

So when the leather chemicals industry decided to have another reshuffle we were all a little concerned about the potential outcomes. The consolidation has already limited choice and we seem to be slowly losing some of the very dynamic German family businesses that have served us so well.

Finally, we heard that Stahl were going to take over Clariant and we wondered how it would work, not helped by the very long gestation period we had while the new structure and personnel were put in place. Stahl has changed hands a few times over the years but one thing seems to come through each time and that is that although we do see new faces the culture of the business does not appear to change to much. Culturally, the Stahl of today is not much changed from that of the 50s and 60s. They are to be congratulated for that, and for achieving a merger that gives every appearance of being well planned and executed.

The rest of the chemical industry also appears to be clearer in its purpose so although the industry has changed it remains a competitive one, with tanners still having a wide range of options. This is important as of we are to make good leather and argue that it is sustainable we need chemical companies that we can trust, not just with certificates of conformity but in integrity all the way through. And we need their help to be always advancing and offering new ideas and innovations.

Mike Redwood

mike@internationalleathermaker.com

Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

 

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