When Hexpol A.B. purchased Preferred Compounding last July for $232 million, Preferred CEO Ken Bloom was resigned to the fact that he was going to walk away from the combined organization and leave the rubber industry in his rear view mirror.
Bloom had spent 13 years with Preferred, but when private equity owner Audax Group—the third PE owner of the Copley, Ohio-based custom mixer since 2002—started the process to cash out its investment, he knew his position could be in jeopardy.
"It's very natural when companies are acquired, the senior leadership typically are the ones the most at risk," he said. "They don't need two CEOs or CFOs."
Hexpol Compounding Americas, which accounts for more than 60 percent of Hexpol's global compounding revenues, already had a president in Tracy Garrison, and a chief financial officer. So Bloom and Preferred CFO David Kantor weren't needed when the deal became official July 1.
"I wasn't upset about it," Bloom said. "It was just kind of the normal course of business. They treated me fine and I was off doing other things, and was there to help if needed. But they were a very competent team, and they knew what they wanted to do with the business. And I went off to do my own things."
That meant the former Preferred Compounding CEO would be leaving the rubber industry to fulfill his non-compete agreement. "At that point I was very comfortable with that," he said. "I'd been in the industry 13 years. I was actually never thinking of going back to the rubber business. Part of that was there was really nobody out there—even after a non-compete was over—I wanted to go work for."
But November came, and all that changed when Bloom received a text from Mikael Fryklund—Hexpol A.B. CEO and president until Fryklund and Hexpol parted ways Feb. 14—asking "Can you talk?"
It turns out Garrison had plans to leave Hexpol at the end of 2019 to become CEO of Geon Performance Solutions.
After some negotiating and a whirlwind trip to Sweden to meet board members, Bloom's six-month exile from the rubber industry ended when he took Garrison's post as president of Hexpol Compounding Americas on Jan. 1.
Life leading to rubber
Bloom is an engineer by training, working in multiple businesses throughout the years. He started with an entry level job in aerospace, working for jet engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney. Then he went into building products in the polyvinyl chloride construction sector, focusing on vinyl windows, doors and siding, among other goods.