ASHTABULA, Ohio—Work relationships certainly can influence some life-changing decisions. Especially when you least expect it.
Richard Selip and Joseph Misinec can attest to that.
The co-owners of Grand River Rubber & Plastics Co. had worked tirelessly to make their manufacturing plant a success. They had an exit strategy: grow the business until they reached their mid to late 50s, then sell to the highest bidder.
A funny thing happened on the way to retirement.
“The problem with that is by the time I got to be 55, back in 1998, the first time I went to sell the business, I found out I really liked the people I worked with,” Selip said. “It wasn't as simple as putting it out in the market and selling it to the right bidder.
“What happened to the company after we sold it became just as important as the act of selling it.”
While the end of the story is widely known—three years ago, the pair agreed to sell the business to its employees, and they will retire, together, in March—the story of how they reached that point demonstrates their commitment to their workers.
In 1998, Selip, Misinec and former co-owner Bob Jessup signed a letter of intent to sell their business to a private equity firm, which, according to Selip, was building a portfolio of specialty rubber and plastics firms. Each of the three would retain 10 percent of the company.
Selip and Misinec knew what that meant: The company would be sold again.
Selip posed this question to one of the equity firm's partners: “We can control the sale of company the first time, but what happens the next time?”
“What he said was,” Selip recalled, “ "Look, when the time is right, I can't tell my investors that the minority shareholders are holding up the sale.' “
One morning, the issue came to a head, while Selip and Misinec met for a morning jog and breakfast.
“I said, "Joe, I can't do it,' “ Selip said.
“Too many bad vibes,” Misinec said.
They called off the sale. “It didn't feel like the right thing for everyone involved,” Selip said.
The equity firm did proceed with their plan, acquiring Wek Industries Inc., in nearby Jefferson, Ohio.