Nearly 101 years to the date of its founding, family-owned Chicago Faucet Co. of Des Plaines, Ill., has been acquired by The Geberit Group, headquartered in Jona, Switzerland. The acquisition was effective July 9, 2002. Albert C. Brown, founder of Chicago Faucet, started his business July 12, 1901.

Keith Kramer, president/CEO of Geberit Manufacturing in the United States and based in Michigan City, Ind., will now head all of Geberit's North American operations including Chicago Faucet Co.

Kramer succeeds Alan Lougee, former president of Chicago Faucet Co., who will remain a consultant to the company for the next two years and is expected to pursue other opportunities. Lougee is the great-grandson of the company's founder. Several other family members who had served on the board of Chicago Faucet will be replaced by members of Geberit's board.

"We are now a Geberit company, a wholly owned, separately operated company of Geberit," said Richard O'Reagan, vice president/sales and marketing at Chicago Faucet.

The acquisition includes all four manufacturing plants operated by Chicago Faucet including the one in Des Plaines; Starline Manufacturing, Milwaukee, Wis.; Synapse, Huntsville, Ala.; and Duffin Manufacturing, Cleveland, Ohio, said Suzanne Shaw, director of marketing at Chicago Faucet. Starline, Duffin and Synapse are wholly owned subsidiaries of Chicago Faucet.

In an interesting twist, Kramer had been president of Starline Manufacturing just prior to joining Geberit in August 2001. Lougee, as president of Chicago Faucet Co., had overseen operations in all four locations.

The 400 employees of Chicago Faucet (including all four locations) will continue with business as usual, O'Reagan said. Chicago Faucet will remain in its Des Plaines headquarters and will retain its name.

"That was one of the high points of the purchase," O'Reagan said. "Geberit recognized the position of the Chicago Faucet brand name."

The Geberit name is well-known outside of the United States, according to Scott Farrisee, vice president/operations and logistics at Geberit Manufacturing, Michigan City, Ind.

"This acquisition attaches us to another household name in the United States," he said. "We are looking for pull-through to make us as well-known in the United States as we are in Europe. We have commercial products that we feel can pull through with their faucets and make for a nice package deal on the commercial end."

Both Geberit and Chicago Faucet acknowledged there is little overlap between the two companies and their product lines will complement each other.

"We do not expect any significant changes in terms of consolidation," O'Reagan said. "Except for Mr. Lougee, current management will remain in place."

Geberit said it intends to integrate the two companies' sales and distribution networks.

"We plan to come up with what is the best mix for the organization," Farrisee said. "Geberit has been more focused on the residential side, while Chicago Faucet has been primarily commercial. We're trying to decide how to mesh those two companies to take advantage of what both have to offer."

Chicago Faucet's products can be found primarily in schools, laboratories, hospitals, office buildings, food service operations, airports and sports facilities. The company reported sales of $70 million for fiscal 2001.

"We have enjoyed several years of success and the shareholders felt that now was a good time to take advantage of that success," O'Reagan said, when asked why the owners decided to sell the business.

Geberit's North American operations include a manufacturing and sales operation in Michigan City, Ind.; a sales and distribution facility for polyethylene piping systems in Atlanta; and a distribution center in Canada. The Geberit Group operates companies in the United States, Canada, China and Singapore.

In the United States, Geberit produces an in-wall concealed tank flushing system for wall-mounted toilets, a line of hands-free, infrared faucets, and various bath waste and overflow products.

With this acquisition, the Geberit Group significantly increases its presence and commitment in the United States, continues its expansion and internationalization strategy and becomes one of the leading suppliers of commercial plumbing products in the United States, the company said in a statement. The Geberit Group will combine its existing product line with Chicago Faucet's line to form a broader range of offerings to the commercial plumbing market.

Geberit's Michigan City, Ind.-facility has about 55 employees. Worldwide, the company employs a staff of about 4,600 people.

"We're very excited about this," Chicago Faucet's O'Reagan said. "We think it's a great opportunity for the business."