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GOJO acquires French company, says it will result in more work in Akron area and sales in Europe

By Betty Lin-Fisher
Beacon Journal business writer

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GOJO Industries, Akron-based makers of Purell, said it acquired French company Laboratoires Prodene Klint, a maker of professional hygiene, cosmetics and disinfectant products.

It is the first GOJO acquisition of any substance in the company’s 68-year history, other than when the company bought back its Purell brand from Johnson & Johnson Consumer Co. in 2010, said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Joe Kanfer, in an interview with the Beacon Journal from France on Thursday.

Details of the acquisition are to be announced today.

Kanfer said the company, founded in 1946 by his late aunt and uncle, Jerry and Goldie Lippman, has become internationally known with a leading position in the business-to-business market for hand hygiene and skin care.

He said there were small acquisitions in the late 1980s and one in 1969.

“We tend to take a very leading technology position and there are very rarely companies that we feel would add to our portfolio through either market position or technology,” said Kanfer. “We have been primarily a growth-oriented company, but self-driven growth where we develop and spend a lot of money in research and development technology. This is a company that meets our criteria for our position in Europe as well as an interesting and nice product line.”

Like GOJO, Laboratoires Prodene Klint, is also a third-generation family-owned and operated business and a category leader, said Mark Lerner, GOJO president and chief operating officer, also in France.

The acquisition “will advance our shared vision as the global leader in healthy skin and healthy places,” said Lerner.

Said Eric Vignot, CEO of Prodene Klint in a press release: “What intrigued us most about expanding with a leader like GOJO was the similarity of vision. Prodene Klint and GOJO will expand our geographic footprint, serve global customers and expand access to diverse ideas and resources.”

The Vignot family will stay on after the acquisition, said Lerner.

Financial details were not disclosed.

The acquisition adds about 300 employees in France to GOJO’s approximately 1,600 employees in the United States, the majority being at the Akron headquarters and Cuyahoga Falls manufacturing facility.

Prodene Klint was both a competitor and had products that complement the GOJO product line, mostly in the business and commercial segments, said Lerner.

Having a manufacturing facility in France will allow GOJO to service its European customers better and expand, said Lerner. Currently, all GOJO products are manufactured in Cuyahoga Falls and shipped internationally to 28 countries and the U.S., he said.

While the French manufacturing plant will start making GOJO products as well as the former Prodene Klint products, Prodene Klint has products that GOJO can manufacture in Cuyahoga Falls and market in the U.S., said Kanfer.

There will be more manufacturing done in Cuyahoga Falls, not less, because of the additional products, said Kanfer.

Kanfer said company officials are exploring “pretty aggressive expansion plans in Northeast Ohio. This will just ... make us more competitive.”

“This is a net gain,” said Kanfer, who said the company has outgrown its expansion a few years ago of warehousing facilities in Cuyahoga Falls.

Said Lerner: “We’re really viewing this as a strategic expansion as opposed to some people who make an acquisition and look at the cost-cutting perspective.”

Kanfer said while this is the first major acquisition in GOJO history, it’s not necessarily a trend of the company looking for more acquisitions.

“Truthfully, there are not a ton of acquisition candidates in our marketplace. We have a pretty major U.S. position and we’re always out there looking and talking.

‘‘But growing through acquisition is not a corporate strategy. Growing smartly is a strategy,” he said.

Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at @blinfisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty


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