By Tom Smith
For more than 40 years, Indiana-based Mullinix Packages Inc. has designed and developed thermoformed products that help companies solve their packaging challenges. Under the leadership and creativity of its founder, George Lueken, Mullinix was often the first to achieve many thermoformed packaging innovations. Through continually investing in state-of-the-art equipment and production technology, Mullinix has become recognized as an innovative leader in the thermoformed packaging industry.
In 2011, Mullinix Packages partnered with Mason Wells, a Midwest-based private equity firm, to gain additional support and capital to allow the company to further develop its product offerings, production capabilities and strategic options. The partnership with Mason Wells was all part of a carefully designed succession plan for the business that Lueken developed in direct consultation with Mason Wells over a period of years.
A new era
Many times in the sale of a company, owners hire a broker and sell their business in a carefully orchestrated and intense auction process. Lueken wanted to take a different approach. He wanted to transition the ownership of Mullinix to someone who saw eye-to-eye with him on the business strategy and new market opportunities. He chose to work exclusively with Mason Wells because the firm collaborated with him and the Mullinix management team to map out a strategic vision and plan for the future. Mullinix management and Mason Wells are now pursuing that plan together.
Prior to the firm's investment, Mason Wells applied its knowledge of the packaging and packaged goods industry to help Lueken and Mullinix develop benchmarks and best practices to both analyze and improve Mullinix's operational efficiencies, capital investment initiatives and business development activities. Together, they created the blue print for the company's future.
Means for new opportunities
Thermoforming is a capital-intensive business. To stay competitive, a business must continually reinvest in its manufacturing assets to allow it to provide new and innovative products to its customers. With access to additional equity capital, Mullinix now has the financial support and capacity to not only pursue a number of new organic growth opportunities, but also make strategic acquisitions in a rapidly consolidating industry.
The investment by Mason Wells has already allowed Mullinix to initiate a number of organic growth initiatives requiring investment in new product development. Other strategic initiatives underway and in consideration include:
• Improvement of operating efficiency through counsel and production systems investment
• Enhanced visibility and brand equity in the marketplace through new sales and marketing strategies and activities
• Further investment in research and development of new materials
Longer term, Mullinix and Mason Wells are expecting to consider other initiatives that offer opportunity for both growth and margin improvement. Some of the items under evaluation include:
• Initiating additional processes that would use more post-consumer and industrial regrind material
• Expanding the company's offering of products that use bio-based materials
Over time, Mullinix and Mason Wells are intent on building the company into a top-10 U.S. thermoformer by improving the company's well-established reputation of innovation in product design and development.
Source: Mason Wells
Tom Smith is a senior managing director of Mason Wells, a Midwest-based private equity firm. He has more than 20 years of experience in private equity investments and sits on the board of directors for Mullinix Packages Inc., as well as other packaging companies throughout the Midwest.