Titan International Inc. has formed a partnership with Rodos Giants L.L.C. and is in discussions to buy Continental Tire North America Inc.'s Bryan, Ohio, off-the-road tire plant.
Titan became a prospective buyer in mid-August, a Conti spokeswoman said. Maurice Taylor Jr., chairman and CEO of the Quincy, Ill.-based wheel and tire maker said the Bryan facility interests him because "we make all the wheels those tires go on," and OTR is where Titan wants to go. He declined to discuss the talks or the specifics of the Titan-Rodos partnership.
Conti's OTR facility manufactures bias- and radial-ply agricultural, earthmover, industrial and OTR tires at a capacity of 232 units per day. Earthmover and industrial tire sales comprise 31 percent of Titan's tire sales, and its Des Moines, Iowa, plant does not produce OTR tires.
Conti said it is reviewing other potential buyers, a change from earlier assertions it was committed to completing the sale of the facility to Dortmund, Germany-based Rosler Group, parent of Rodos. The Charlotte, N.C.-based tire maker also said it had not extended its letter of intent with Rosler, which expired Aug. 31.
Conti and Rosler had signed a letter of intent Jan. 13, and the deal was scheduled to close July 31. But Rodos and the United Steelworkers union couldn't reach a collective bargaining agreement as required by a successorship clause in Conti's union contract.
Titan in the past has had its own stalemates with union workers, including a 40-month strike at its Des Moines facility. When asked if past relations between Taylor and the union could be an obstacle to the Bryan sale, a Conti spokeswoman said Taylor has been successful in obtaining agreements with the USW in the past, and "we are sure that he will work diligently to obtain an agreement in this case as well."
Ron Hoover, USW executive vice president, is handling negotiations between the union and Titan/Rodos, according to John Bowling, Bryan Local 890L unit chair.
"We're in a wait-and-see type of thing to see who they're going to sell it to," Bowling said. "Since Morry's in the mix, it changes everything. That's my understanding of it."
Meanwhile, Titan still is in the process of acquiring Goodyear's farm tire unit for $100 million, including negotiating a contract with the USW for the Freeport, Ill., farm tire plant. A Goodyear spokesman said the Akron tire maker had extended its deadline to close on the sale of the unit to Oct. 1.
Taylor said Titan is continuing its negotiations with the union, and Freeport Local 745 members are meeting to review the company's latest proposals. He called Titan's offer to Freeport workers "very, very attractive" and said it would cover the next five years.
This story was written by Vera Fedchenko, a staff member of Tire Business.