Rodney Hunt parent company seeks buyer

Rodney Hunt Co. during a 2012 tour.  Recorder file photo

Rodney Hunt Co. during a 2012 tour. Recorder file photo

ORANGE — The Milwaukee-based owner of 173-year-old Rodney Hunt Co. is seeking a buyer for its water-management businesses, which includes the Orange manufacturer of flood-control equipment, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Rexnord Corp., which is controlled by private equity firm Apollo Global Management, is exploring selling off its six water management businesses in a deal that could bring $1 billion, the newspaper reported.

Rodney Hunt has about 270 employees.

Those businesses, including Quebec-based Fontaine Industries, which manufacture drainage, faucets, valves, backflow preventers and other equipment. Water management accounted for about one-third of Rexnord sales in the past fiscal year, according to the Journal.

Founded in 1840 in Orange, Rodney Hunt’s earliest products were plows, simple wooden machines and the wooden water wheels and gates used in New England textile mills. From the mid 19th to the mid-20th centuries, the company expanded its product line to include textile manufacturing machinery, pumps, governors and hydraulic and mechanical equipment that helped sustain the textile industry.

It grew significantly with increased demand for textile wet-finishing machinery and equipment during and after World War II, and developed a significant market for its sluice gates and other water control equipment for the water-control industry. In 1995, Rodney Hunt merged operations with GA Industries, which was in turn acquired by Zurn Industries, a division of Rexnord.

Last August, Rodney Hunt announced that it plans to add 60 new jobs and invest $6 million in machinery and equipment over the next couple of years with its move of Fontaine from Quebec to Orange. At the time, Rodney Hunt President Carl Nicolia said the company was able to move Fontaine — which makes stainless steel sluice and slide gates, stop logs and related water-control equipment — to Orange with the help of a four-year tax break from the town. That break, giving the company a full tax credit of $65,000 in the first year, reducing over five years until its full tax is paid again in the fifth year, was followed by tax credits from the state.

Rodney Hunt officials said they plan to invest $2.5 million in payroll over the next couple of years, with a total investment of $6 million over five years.

Among Rodney Hunt’s recent projects featured on its website is helping to design the new Beijing Water Supply System, the water system for Denver’s new international airport and the largest freshwater diversion project ever built in the United States in southeast Louisiana.

Rexnord, which was acquired by Apollo in 2006, entered the water-management business in 2007 when it bought Zurn Industries as part of its purchase of Jacuzzi Brands Inc.

Rexnord officials would not comment on the Wall Street Journal article, and Nicolia could not be reached to comment.

I am employed with this company and have been there during this transition. Not fun and quite frankly the people in leadership positions need to be more educated in running a business during a merger. It is clearly apparrent to this reader and as an employee of this so called company that the future is uncertain for the company, the town of Orange and the employees. Shame on Rexnord, Appollo and all who didnt htink this through. In this day and age when the buyer with the most cash can purchase a company, regardless of experience with the products or people they are purchasing, employees mean nothing. The main reason you cannot get a reply from Carl Nicolia is that he has been fired and no longer is in charge.

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