LESSONS FROM A MIDDLE MARKET LBO: THE CASE OF O.M. SCOTT
George P. Baker and
Karen H. Wruck
Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, 1991, vol. 4, issue 1, 46-58
In 1986 The O.M. Scott & Sons Company, the largest producer of lawn care products in the U.S., was sold by the ITT Corporation in a divisional leveraged buyout. The company was founded in Marysville, Ohio in 1870 by Orlando McLean Scott to sell farm crop seed. In 1900, the company began to sell weedfree lawn seed through the mail. In the 1920s, the company introduced the first home lawn fertilizer, the first lawn spreader, and the first patented bluegrass seed. Today, Scott is the acknowledged leader in the “do‐it‐yourself” lawn care market, with sales of over $300 million and over 1500 employees. Scott remained closely held until 1971, when it was purchased by ITT. The company then became a part of the consumer products division of the huge conglomerate, and operated as a wholly‐owned subsidiary for 14 years. In 1984, prompted by a decline in financial performance and rumors of takeover and liquidation, ITT began a series of divestitures. Over the next two years, total divestitures exceeded $2 billion and, after years of substandard performance, ITT's stock price significantly outperformed the market. On November 26, 1986, in the midst of this divestiture activity, ITT announced that the managers of Scott, along with Clayton & Dubilier (C & D), a private firm specializing in leveraged buyouts, had agreed to purchase the stock of Scott and another ITT subsidiary, the W. Atlee Burpee Company. The deal closed on December 30. Clayton & Dubilier raised roughly $211 million to finance the purchase of the two companies. Of that $211 million, almost $191 milion, or 91% of the total, was debt: bank loans, subordinated notes, and subordinated debentures. The $20 million of new equity was distributed as follows: roughly 62% of the shares were held by a C & D partnership, 21% by Scott's new subordinated debtholders, and 17.5% by Scott management and employees. After this radical change in financial structure and concentration of equity ownership, Scott's operating performance improved dramatically. Between the end of December 1986 and the end of September 1988, sales were up 25% and earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) increased by 56%. As shown in Table 1, this increase in operating earnings was not achieved by cutting back on marketing and distribution or R & D. In fact, spending on marketing and distribution increased by 21% and R & D spending went up by 7%. Capital spending also increased by 23%.
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Journal of Applied Corporate Finance is currently edited by Donald H. Chew Jr.
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