Cervenkas Sell Phillips Plastics to Kohlberg

DN Staff

December 11, 2010

3 Min Read
Cervenkas Sell Phillips Plastics to Kohlberg

Wisconsin-based molder Phillips Plastics Corp. has been acquired  by Kohlberg & Co., a leading private equity firm based in Mount Kisco, NY.

Phillips CEO  Brad Wucherpfenni, will continue to lead the company and the entire management team will remain in place.  “Today we go forward under new ownership, but our commitment remains the same-to provide our customers with a resource for state-of-the-art technology and engineering expertise that will give their products a competitive edge in the marketplace.  Working with Kohlberg, we will be able to strategically grow our business to meet the needs of our customers worldwide,” said Wucherpfennig.

Kohlberg has completed more than 50 platform investments and more than 80 add-on acquisitions, with aggregate transaction value in excess of $8 billion since its founding.

Phillips Plastics is a leading manufacturer of highly engineered injection-molded products with annual sales above $250 million. The company employs 1,300 people in 14 locations throughout the United States, including design centers in Wisconsin and California, and a medical campus with 180,000 square feet of FDA registered facilities dedicated to high volume medical and clean room manufacturing.

Phillips founder Robert F. “Bob” Cervenka, an engineer who was born and raised in Phillips, WI, made technical innovation a foundation of the company, which prospered while many American injection molders were devastated by Asian competition.

“I started Phillips Plastics in 1964 with a childhood friend just as reciprocating screws were beginning to have a major impact,” Cervenka said in a Design News interview in 2005.  ”What got really embedded in our minds was the technology revolution that was happening. New developments in materials and technology gave us a tremendous advantage against molders using plunger machines.”

Cervenka pivoted the company away from commodity-type molding, such as bid-based automotive contracts, and focused on markets that valued quality and technology, such as medical. In another important distinction, the company is not just a plastics molder: Phillips molds liquid and powder metal, ceramics and liquid silicone rubber.

Phillips has also taken a different route by emphasizing a design-integrated and total supply chain approach.

One of the interesting assets of the company is the Origen Technology Center in Menomonie, WI, which has served as an incubator for new ideas and jobs. One of the innovations was a three-dimensional, molded structure with interconnected pores that are said to enhance the growth of cells in orthopedic implants.

In 2005, Cervenka received the “Seize the Day” award at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference. The “Seize the Day” award is given for innovative leadership - the ability to take hold of business opportunities and transform them into successes.

“Bob Cervenka epitomizes what it means to be an entrepreneur,” said Mark Bugher, chairman of the Wisconsin Technology Council. The Tech Council presented the award along with the Wisconsin Innovation Network and the steering committee of the Entrepreneurs’ Conference, whose members judge the award finalists.

Cervenka and his wife, Debbie, endowed $1.5 million to UW-Stout to develop a curriculum on entrepreneurial corporate culture. The Cervenkas also donated $1 million toward creation of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the UW-Madison.

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