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You Bet Your Glass: December 2013

Achieving Apogee


December 9, 2013
By Frank Fulton

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On the morning of Nov. 5, Joseph F. Puishys, CEO of American based
Apogee Enterprises, issued a press release stating, “We are very pleased
to acquire Alumicor, a Canadian market leader with annual revenues of
approximately $60 million and an impressive management team

On the morning of Nov. 5, Joseph F. Puishys, CEO of American based
Apogee Enterprises, issued a press release stating, “We are very pleased
to acquire Alumicor, a Canadian market leader with annual revenues of
approximately $60 million and an impressive management team. Alumicor
ideally complements Apogee’s growth strategies. It helps Apogee grow
geographically by expanding our presence in the Canadian non-residential
market, and will also contribute to growth through new product
introductions. Along with our organic growth initiatives, this puts us
well on our way to exceeding our goal to be $1 billion in revenues by
the end of fiscal 2016.” Apogee’s revenues for fiscal 2013, which ended
in February, were $700 million. By early afternoon, Steve Gusterson,
Alumicor’s manager of pre-construction design services, found his phone
ringing off the hook with questions from surprised customers asking what
was going on. “The very next morning, architects were already asking me
for design support using historic windows produced by Wausau Window and
Wall Systems,” he said, laughing. Wausau is one of the new Alumicor
sister companies under the Apogee umbrella. “I can’t believe how fast
the news spread,” Gusterson said.

So, who is Apogee? Apogee’s
origins date back to 1949 when two glass workers and a car salesman
leased part of an old tire store on Harmon Place in downtown
Minneapolis, Minn., to start a car glass replacement business and called
it Harmon Glass. Seeking new opportunities in the market, in 1955
Harmon expanded into a new venture to install and replace glass in
buildings. Over the years, expansion and acquisitions brought new lines
of business and a new entity named Apogee was formed in 1968 to manage
the different profit centres. Apogee went public through a stock
offering in 1971.

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Apogee purchased Alumicor for approximately $52
million from Fulcrum Capital Partners, a Canadian private investment
management firm, and six minority shareholders. Fulcrum had been the
majority owner of Alumicor since 2007. Initially founded in 1959 by the
late George Devonshire, Alumicor joins a number of notable players in
the glass and architectural metal field in the Apogee stable, including
Viracon (insulating glass), Tubelite (storefront framing, entrances, and
curtain wall), Linetec (painting and anodizing), Wausau (custom windows
and curtain wall), and Harmon Contract (glazing contractors).

The
feelings of people I’ve spoken with at Alumicor regarding the
acquisition are totally upbeat and positive. Larry Maker, Alumicor CEO,
stated, “Apogee bought Alumicor for what we are and not for what they
want us to be. They place high value on the Alumicor brand and
management and have no intention of making changes. Apogee was adamant
in conveying that all Alumicor senior management will stay in place.”
Maker went on to make the following point: “We expect to continue to
operate independently and execute our business plan. Over time we will
work to develop consistent operational best practices consistent with
other Apogee businesses. All of the Apogee businesses work on an open
market basis and are responsible for their own results.” I take this to
mean there is no direction from the parent company to purchase or
conduct business with the other group companies. Alumicor has already
assured its major suppliers that business will continue as usual, and
that it values the relationships and support it has enjoyed over many
years. Even though Alumicor now has one of the largest insulating glass
manufacturing companies in the world in Viracon as a partner, Maker has
no intention of introducing glazed windows or fully assembled curtain
wall into its product line. Lyndon Regular, Alumicor’s national
vice-president of sales and marketing, and a longtime friend and
colleague from Fulton Windows, echoed Maker’s sentiments. “Everything
just smells right about this move. Apogee is very interested in
maintaining the Alumicor brand and places high value on our management
team.” 

By all accounts, it appears there is no interest in or
intention of reinventing Alumicor to create an “Apogee Building
Envelope” type of company. Although this move likely opens up
opportunities for the Alumicor family of employees, I regret seeing
another successful Canadian enterprise moving part of its roots south of
the border.


Frank Fulton is president of Fultech Fenestration Consulting. He
has been in the industry for 30 years and can be reached via e-mail at
fultech.fc@gmail.com


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