Mather & Platt/Wormald International 1978 and after ...

When the Australian-based company, Wormald International, acquired Mather & Platt in 1978 it was a take-over that affected M&P not only in Britain but also on a worldwide basis.

During the ensuing years there were internal rationalisations which touched each and every Mather & Platt establishment - at the highest echelon and with the name Mather & Platt eventually being expunged from corporate vocabulary - in the U.K. at least.

Mather & Platt Ltd (UK)  became Wormald U.K. (later Wormald Ansul)
S.A. Mather + Platt (Fire Engineering) became, M+P -Wormald   (France)
S.A. Mather + Platt (Food Machinery) was sold to American Food Machinery
Mather & Platt S. P. A. became Wormald - Mather & Platt (Italy)
Mather & Platt (Spain) became Wormald  Mather & Platt ( Spain)
Le GRINNELL, (Belgium) became Wormald (B)
Le GRINNELL, (Netherlands)  became Wormald N.V. - and so on.

Under a restructured management, all departments of the former company, except for "Fire Engineering" were sold. By on-selling all other divisional operations, the strategy was to amortize completely the acquisition of the "Fire Engineering" flagship - the proud and successful descendant of The Taylors of 'D'.

The Food Machinery Department was sold to American Food Machinery which had initially assisted in building up the original M&P department at Radcliffe Works (Britain), Quimper (France) and Anvers (Belgium). . The Indian operation was sold to the Jumbo Group (the late Manohar Rajaram Chhabria) after his death, the firm was sold to Wilo who are expanding in India with the Mather & Platt acquisition.

Recent additions ...

Wilo AG has acquired majority holdings in the Indian listed companies Mather & Platt Pumps Ltd and Mather & Platt Fire Systems Ltd from the Jumbo Group. Mather & Platt (India) Ltd. deals with pumps and pumping projects. M+P is engaged in designing and supply of equipments and systems for fire detection and protection. M+P manufacture equipments and systems for food processing. M+P is ISO 9001 certified. We cater to to the requirements of many sectors like oil, fertilizers, municipal services, irrigation, power generation, and steel mines. and  

Previously .......

The Indian operation was sold to the Jumbo Group (the late Manohar Rajaram Chhabria) and South Africa to Benmacor / Hudaco (see now Mather & Platt South Africa.) The Pumps Department was sold to the Scottish company Weir Pumps Ltd. who have their Manchester base in part of the Newton Heath complex. Such buildings that were no longer required were later demolished.

In 1978, many M&P identities found themselves seeking new horizons, either by choice or by corporate design. One such man in this latter category was Eustace Balfour, Chairman of S.A. Mather & Platt in France. Many such executives were still comparativly young and were armed with the skills and the kind of dynamism that M&P engendered. For some who left it was a challenge; but for others there was a ready-made market keen to tap in to their talents. Some remained with Wormald or transferred to the organisations that purchased the various M&P divisions.

With a new ownership in place, both the Mather and Taylor dynasties came to a sudden and dramatic end. Between them, the families had served Mather & Platt Ltd. since its incorporation as a public company in 1899 and, of course, after an even longer history of pioneering excellence stretching back to the early 19th Century with Peter Mather thence to William and Colin Mather up to the partnership of Mather & Platt in the mid-1800s and so through to the innovative 1883 Fire Engineering concern of Dowson and Taylor and its subsequent amalgamation with Mather & Platt.

The parting of the ways for the Mathers and Taylors was inevitable given control passing to the Australian company (albeit under a British Board - Wormald International Holdings U.K.). The new owners, were just that - new - and variously described in the media as a 'sister company' at one end of the spectrum to a 'fledgling upstart' at the other. Either way, the international acquisive climate of the time brought to an end a period of corporate history quite without parallel. Furthermore, it brought to a close the company's ethos and style of management where the Board and Management in Britain were 'on the spot', mostly 'home-grown' and fully in touch with an immediate, local workforce and where there was an unspoken trust via an invisible thread stretching back for more than 150 years.

Be that as it may, it also has to be considered that the 1980s heralded in the 'smart-tech' era of business and those corporations who were unprepared for the '2nd. Industrial Revolution' were liable to be left behind. The age of computerised design/manufacture and the technologies required to control them had dawned - and, as is the nature of things, the sun rises in Australia before it does in Britain.

Australia had become a leader in this field. The kind of capital required to service the scope of any necessary upgrade designed to see all divisions of the original Mather & Platt come safely through the upheavals of the 1980s would have been quite phenomenal. Thus, by the time 1985 rolled in and saw the release of the blockbuster movie, "Back To The Future" - or the arrival of the classic Australian black comedy "Bliss" - there were rumblings of a different nature in the offing for Wormald International.

Wormald International itself became the target of a hostile take-over, an event which it mainly survived but, not long after, it fell victim to a preditory Australian group - The Reil Corporation Ltd - formed in 1986 and publicly listed in 1987. With three principal partners - Cave, Willson and Mansfield - the aim was, in the words of - quoted in a recent C.V. posted on the internet - to 'identify companies with strong brand and market positioning that we believed we could add value to'. Mansfield states that he was responsible for the operational element of this group and that Wormald International was acquired by them in 1989. He writes that he was on the Board of Wormald International from 1989-1991. Again, in his own words - 'Wormald was a world-wide group with an annual revenue of $1.5 billion'. He adds that, 'After restructuring, the group was sold to Tyco Laboratories Inc. of the USA in August 1990."

Mansfield makes the comment that he 'elected not to continue with the group after the sale'

Indeed, he went on to head up Optus in Australia with success, for that same C.V. states:

"March 1992 - Oct. 1995 Optus Communications Pty. Ltd.
Chief Executive

Founding CEO of Australia's second Telecommunications Carrier in competition with the previous monopoly operator, Telstra. This company began by providing mobile, long distance and satellite communication services and is also a major shareholder in Optus Vision the Pay Television operator. The Company experienced explosive growth and from a standing start became a very significant operation very quickly. In the 3 1/2 years of my leadership it grew to an organisation with over 4000 staff, an annualised revenue of $1.8 billion and a break even profit position."

Site Note, 2004
Robert Mansfield (Bob Mansfield) also went on to become Chairman of Telstra (Telecom Australia).
"Mansfield was punted as CEO from both Fairfax and Optus after boardroom battles and before that he was CEO of McDonald's Australia, Sunbeam Victa, Wormald and Lilypak although most of these he left voluntarily."

As glowing a testament as the above "Mansfield/Optus" statement may be, it is clear that negotiations by the Reil Corporation to acquire Wormald International were both complex and fraught - with the added complication of an intervening Stock Market crash. As a result, a number of fingers were clearly burned. There followed litigation in the Federal Court of Australia. The Judgement was handed down on 23rd March 1990. Wormald International was sold to Tyco some five months later.

A summary of the Matter and of the Judgement is in the public domain and may be seen by following this link. The Judge in the case was M. L. Foster who, in summing up, found for the respondents with the following Orders:-

1. The applicants' (Reil) application be dismissed.
2. The applicants (Reil) pay the respondents' costs.

This Judgement does much to clarify the state of affairs at Wormald International just a few years after the Mather & Platt buy-out. It also reflects the frenzied trading atmosphere that dominated the business world in general during the 1980s. Study of the Judgement will demonstrate what was happening at Wormald just before initial negotiations with Reil commenced and it identifies the strategic corporate players in the Wormald drama. Little is left to the imagination as to the reason why Wormald was - very shortly afterwards - sold on to Tyco, which is where we now find Wormald Ansul (U.K) of Newton Heath, Manchester today.

An important part of the large Tyco International group of companies, Wormald is still a prized flagship - but for a time it was a flagship on a somewhat stormy Tyco ocean. The year 2003 began with a new captain at the Tyco helm. Click here to visit the Tyco sites.

'Wormald Ansul (UK) Ltd. is a leading provider of fire protection, safety systems and specialist control technologies - engineering for all types of applications and industries. Its activities cover every aspect - design, manufacturing, installation, commissioning, service and maintenance.'

Wormald Park,
Grimshaw Lane Newton Heath,
Manchester M40 2WL
tel: +44(0)161 455 4400
fax: +44(0)161 455 4459

The Grinnell family and Grinnell Co.

Russell Grinnell Jr. and his family were not destined for the Board of Grinnell. The Grinnell Company in America also came to a parting of the ways - falling victim in the mid 1960s to antitrust laws [US v Grinnell Corp. (1966) ].

Grinnell was taken on by ITT (The International Telephone & Telegraph Corporation) and the company was re-named ITT Grinnell in 1969. Two years later it divested itself of the Fire Protection Division which became an independent company, Grinnell Fire Protection Systems Co. This company was bought out by Tyco in 1976. Ten years later, in 1986, Tyco united the group once more through the purchase of Grinnell Manufacturing and Supply Sales. The company name became Grinnell Corporation. Wormald was brought into the group in 1990 thus uniting the remnants of two enterprises that had once collaborated around the world so effectively more than a hundred years before during the latter part of the 19th Century.