Management Buyout Brings New Start to Central Moloney

It was almost a month ago that Ed Copeland, Bill Austin, Bo Siever and Glen Hosmer, all then-vice presidents of Central Moloney Inc., called a meeting to discuss future plans for the Pine Bluff company.

The possibility that they would ban together to buy the New York-based transformer manufacturer was an idea dormant for some time, but this meeting took that plan into action.

On Jan. 28 the four men officially took over the southeast Arkansas operation, buying the transformer division and the components operation. The purchase places Copeland in the driver's seat as president. Austin, Siever and Hosmer join him in the steering as senior vice presidents.

Combined, the men have 95 years' experience in the electrical power distribution industry. Although the company didn't face an immediate threat of shutdown, Austin says, the buyout secures operations, bringing about a whole new morale.

"To say they would have pulled out is maybe a bit too strong," says Austin, a 20-year employee. "But to say they would have been receptive to the right buyer may not be stretching it so much."

"They" are Coltec Industries Inc. The $1.2 billion conglomerate is involved in various facets of manufacturing, and Austin says Central Moloney was its only transformer operation. Central Moloney is profitable, Austin assures, but it did not fit into the array of other Coltec businesses.

"It was a win-win situation," he says. "It gave them the opportunity to sell, and it gave us the opportunity to buy. We both won."

Transparent Transition

Though Copeland would not disclose the private company's net returns, he says the manufacturer potentially yields sales exceeding $100 million annually. With 650 employees between two Pine Bluff sites, Central Moloney services major investor-owned and municipal-owned utility companies nationwide.

"We tried to make this transition as transparent as possible," says Copeland, a 20-year CMI veteran. "We really don't anticipate any major changes.

Copeland did say, however, that the buyout will bring a new freedom that was somewhat stifled under Coltec. The bureaucracy of a large corporation slowed decision-making. Certain channels had to be followed before finalizing plans, especially with critical pricing and bidding for contracts.

"We don't have to get prior justification for our actions; we can make decisions ourselves," Copeland says. "This greatly improves our response time to customer requests."

Austin says, "We've been around a long time. Our customers know we are dedicated to our marketplace."

Recalling the company's beginnings, Austin says the Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce in 1950 advertised in a New York publication, emphasizing the city as a good location for manufacturers.

Answering the ad, Larken Electric Co. contacted the Pine Bluff chamber about moving operations there. The company lacked the $50,000 needed to make the move, but with the help of the chamber and private investors, Larken found its home in Pine Bluff that same year.

Within several years the company became Central Moloney, still under the ownership of Larken, which grew into Coltec Industries.

Austin says Coltec never indicated it was pulling out of Arkansas, but it was understood the firm was seeking a buyer. The "chemistry," he says, between he and his co-owners "just seemed right." A cross section of key managers and sales representatives also participated in the purchase of the company.

"We have seen some positive changes already," Austin says. "The city has received it really well, and now that the company is Arkansas-owned and operated, it can only get better."

Copeland says he hopes the purchase has removed any doubt that the company may leave. He says Central Moloney is more than established in the marketplace.

"We are here to stay," Copeland says. "We have made a significant commitment, and we are not going anywhere." n