Ball Corporation (NYSE: BLL)
|10 Longs Peak Dr.||Phone: 303-469-3131|
|Broomfield, CO||Fax: 303-460-2127|
|United States||Map This Company|
|http://www.ball.com||Hoover's coverage by Adam Anderson|
The Ball Corporation began in 1880 when Frank Ball and his four brothers started making wood-jacket tin cans to store and transport kerosene and other materials. In 1884 the company switched to tin-jacketed glass containers for kerosene lamps. The lamps, however, were soon displaced by Thomas Edison's electric light bulb.
The Ball brothers then learned that the patent to the original sealed-glass storage container (the Mason jar) had expired. By 1886 the brothers had entered the sealed-jar business and imprinted their jars with the Ball name. In their first year they made 12,500 jars and sparked a patent war with the two reigning jar producers, who asserted that they controlled the correct patents and threatened to sue. The Ball lawyers proved that the patents had expired, and the jar remained Ball's mainstay for many years.
The company began diversifying, but a 1947 antitrust ruling prohibited it from buying additional glass subsidiaries. Ball decided to take advantage of the space race by buying Control Cells (aerospace science research) in 1957; that operation became Ball Brothers Research Corporation (later Ball Aerospace Systems Division). The Soviets launched Sputnik that year, igniting a massive US scientific effort in 1958, and Ball won federal contracts to make equipment for the US space program.
Ball established its metal beverage-container business in 1969 when it bought Jeffco Manufacturing of Colorado. The operation soon won contracts to supply two-piece cans to Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper, Pepsi, and Stroh's Beer.
John Fisher became president and CEO in 1971. The last company president who was a member of the Ball family, Fisher wanted Ball to diversify. He took it public in 1972 to fund his efforts. That year he acquired a Singapore-based petroleum equipment company. Next he led Ball into agricultural irrigation systems and prefabricated housing. In 1974 Ball acquired a small California computer firm, which formed the basis of its telecommunications division.
Fisher retired in 1981. Ball's metal-container business suffered in the late 1980s from overcapacity and price wars in its industry. In 1989 the company's aerospace division was hard hit by $10 million in losses on an Air Force contract and by cuts in defense spending.
Ball spun off its Alltrista canning supplies subsidiary to shareholders in 1993 and purchased Heekin Can, a manufacturer for the food, pet food, and aerosol markets. That year Ball's $50 million mirror system corrected the Hubble Space Telescope's blurred vision. The company entered the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) container business in 1995 and placed its glass-container business into a newly formed company, Ball-Foster Glass Container, and the next year sold its stake to its partner, French materials company Saint-Gobain Group. Also in 1995 the company's aerospace division became subsidiary Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation.
Ball sold its aerosol-can business to BWAY Corp in 1996. It acquired M.C. Packaging of Hong Kong in 1997. Ball popped the top on another big deal in 1998 when it bought Reynolds Metals' aluminum-can business (Reynolds is now owned by Alcoa). In 1999 and 2000 the company closed four can plants in an effort to improve an imbalance in supply and demand.
In 2001 Ball and ConAgra Grocery Products formed a joint venture, Ball Western Can Company, to make metal food containers. Also that year subsidiary Ball Aerospace & Technologies landed a $260 million contract with the US Air Force, and Ball's president and COO, David Hoover, was named CEO. That November, Ball entered into a joint venture with Coors Brewing Co. called Rocky Mountain Metal Container to operate Coors' can facilities, making 4.5 billion cans per year. The company also acquired Wis-Pak Plastics, Inc., adding to its plastic container operations.
Ball finalized its purchase of German can maker Schmalbach-Lubeca (renamed
Before the economy turned south, Ball made several sizeable acquisitions. It acquired
However, in 2008 Ball was forced to make a number of hard choices. It exited a custom and decorative tinplate can business in Maryland and closed a plastic-packaging plant in Ontario. It sold off its plastic pail business too, for about $32 million to
Among its significant decisions in 2010, the company sold off its Plastic Packaging Americas business for $280 million to