Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. is full of surprises concerning its Firestone Building Products Co. division.
The first surprise occurred in February, when Bridgestone/Firestone put its single-ply rubber roofing operation up for sale.
The company made a major commitment to the business throughout the 1980s, when the roofing membrane sector was the fastest-growing rubber market. The inevitable shakeout left Firestone Building Products and industry pioneer Carlisle SynTec Systems as victors.
That accomplished, Bridgestone/Firestone decided to bail out. The need to reduce the company's $2.5 billion debt took precedent.
Now Bridgestone/Firestone has pulled a second surprise: Firestone Building Products no longer is for sale.
The company hasn't given a reason for its decision, but several possibilities exist.
The core tire business is making money. Bridgestone/Firestone has defeated the union and enacted the contract changes it deemed necessary to operate profitably. Rather than running up more debt, the tire division can help reduce it in the future.
Possibly, no one made a sufficient offer for the business. Or, Bridgestone/Firestone may have concluded the roofing field's prospects are pretty good, after all.
Whatever the reason, Bridgestone/Firestone's decision to hang onto Firestone Building Products is a good sign. It means no fire sale was required.
The overwhelming vote by former United Rubber Workers Local 87 members to bolt the United Steelworkers of America for another union indicates all is not hugs and handshakes at the union.
The URW agreed to merge with the Steelworkers by a mere three-vote margin. One of the most vocal opponents to the combination was Dennis Bingham, president of Local 87, representing 2,700 workers at the General Motors Corp. plants in the Dayton, Ohio, area.
Apparently, the majority of the members at what was one of the largest Rubber Workers locals still view the marriage as a shotgun wedding. Even if the AFL-CIO abrogates Local 87's decision to join the International Union of Electronic Workers, some serious fence-mending is required by the USWA.