AVON LAKE, Ohio—North America's largest compounder soon will have a new man in charge.
Stephen Newlin will retire as president and CEO of Avon Lake, Ohio-based PolyOne Corp. on May 15. Those roles will be filled by Robert Patterson, who currently serves as the firm's executive vice president and chief operating officer.
"I am privileged that the board has selected me as the next CEO of this great company," Patterson, 41, said in a March 11 news release. "It is a tremendous honor to continue the remarkable transformation that Steve Newlin envisioned and has successfully executed since 2006.”
Patterson added that Newlin “has demonstrated clear and consistent leadership, which I will build upon in PolyOne's pursuit of continued growth as a specialty company."
In the release, Newlin, 61, said PolyOne's transformation “has been an extraordinary and incredibly rewarding achievement — for our customers, employees and shareholders, as well as for me personally.”
“Bob (Patterson) has been by my side during our transformation and is unquestionably the right leader to take PolyOne to even greater heights in the future,” he said. "With PolyOne's future brighter than ever before, growth being accelerated, and a superb team in place, now is the perfect time for Bob to lead our innovative company.”
PolyOne's turnaround under Newlin has been impressive. When he was hired in early 2006—after a 26-year career in specialty chemicals, but not in plastics—the firm was reeling from almost $300 million in losses in the five years since it was formed from the 2000 merger of compounders Geon Co. and M.A. Hanna Co.
A manufacturing slowdown and internal challenges had driven PolyOne's annual sales down from $3.1 billion to $2.2 billion. The firm also had shed almost 1,300 jobs by closing 20 plants.
Newlin took immediate action, selling businesses that were unprofitable or that did not fit the firm's specialty profile. He also paid down PolyOne's large debt load, before soon embarking on a string of specialty acquisitions. The firm made three major purchases under Newlin, the first of which was its purchase of thermoplastic elastomer compounder GLS Corp. of McHenry, Ill., in late 2007 for an undisclosed price.
In late 2011, PolyOne paid almost $500 million for ColorMatrix Inc. a maker of liquid colorants, additives and fluoropolymers in Berea, Ohio. Then in late 2012, the firm spent almost $400 million to acquire Spartech Corp., a Clayton, Mo.-based maker of plastic sheet and compounds. The Spartech deal stood out by moving PolyOne into production of plastic products in addition to raw materials.
Financially, PolyOne's fortunes greatly improved under Newlin. For 2013, the firm posted sales of almost $3.8 billion and profit of more than $240 million.
The change has been reflected in PolyOne's per-share stock price. That price was near $9 when Newlin joined the firm, but sank to under $2 in the midst of the recession in 2009. Since that, the stock has made a remarkable recovery, closing near $38 on March 11.
Patterson joined PolyOne in 2008 as senior vice president and chief financial officer. He directly oversaw PolyOne's growth initiatives in Asia, leading to record profitability in 2013. In 2012, he was promoted to his current position as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Prior to joining PolyOne, Patterson held leadership roles at Novelis Inc. and SPX Corp. He holds a bachelor's degree in business administration and master's degree in accounting, both from the University of Michigan.