Japanese KITO Corporation signed an agreement to buy Peerless Industrial Group, including Winona's Peerless Chain, for $80 million last Wednesday. The Japanese corporation owns leading North American hoist and crane maker Harrington Hoists and hopes its Pennsylvania-made hoists and Winona-made chains will be the perfect combination. Peerless Chain CEO Tom Wynn said the deal will create stability and growth for Peerless.
"[Peerless] is now owned by a strategic partner who will want to invest and grow the business," Wynn said. KITO purchased Peerless from Boston-based private equity firm Westview Capital Partners, which acquired Peerless in 2010. Prior to that, Chicago investment firm Merit Capital Partners had owned Peerless for 13 years. "Private equity owners are good owners — our current owners have been great — but private equity is usually in it for three to five years," Wynn explained. "They come in and work with you and then sell the business." The result is that a lot of time is spent preparing to sell the business every few years. The Japanese firm plans to bundle Peerless chains and Harrington hoists, boost sales by marketing to the companies' respective preexisting customer bases, and grow its share of the North American market, according to Wynn. That means KITO's purchase is about growth, not consolidation. "Chances are good now the company will never be sold while they are working here," Wynn said of Peerless' 300 Winona employees. He added that the deal will likely bring additional business to the Winona plant.
"It's probably the most exciting thing that's ever happened in my 41 years in the chain business," Wynn said.
Wynn acknowledged that sometimes companies purchased by foreign buyers become less involved in the local community. "I promise that won't happen with Peerless," he said. Its new parent company may be Japanese, but Peerless will still be managed "by a bunch of people who went to Winona State," he added. "We will still be extremely active in the community. That is not going to change."
Peerless and KITO officials expect the purchase to be finalized in late August.
Peerless Chain was founded in Winona in 1917 by Joseph, Dominic, and Al Bambenek as a tire chain company. It operated out of large brick plant at Second and Walnut streets until 1968, when it moved to its current plant on East Sanborn Street. Today, it makes all kinds of chains and chain accessories, from marine cargo chains to decorative plastic links.
KITO is publicly traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.