With a nod to its history in Hancock County, on December 1, 2020 Aleris became Commonwealth Rolled Products and announced that county native Mike Keown will become president and CEO of the new company, both of which could introduce familiarity and stability after four years’ worth of buyout upheaval.
The changes came as American Industrial Partners (AIP) completed what’s been announced as a roughly $171 million net cash purchase of Aleris’ auto body sheet assets in North America after the Indian conglomerate that bought Aleris was forced by government regulators to sell off the auto body sheet capabilities to avoid an unfair competitive advantage.
In North America, the crown jewel of Aleris’ auto body sheet production is the Lewisport mill and its recent roughly $500 million expansion just for that purpose, which makes the $171 million net cash price seem low – a point that Novelis made – but the company said it felt forced by government timelines and a COVID-depressed market to take less than what it believed the Lewisport mill and a Michigan R&D hub were worth.
But with the sale completed to the New York private equity firm AIP, the new company, comprised of Lewisport, the principal sales office in Cleveland, and the Madison Heights, Mich. facility, are now Commonwealth.
AIP took feedback from company employees on the new name and even the logo.
“The Commonwealth name recognizes and builds on the over half-century legacy of the Lewisport based business,” the company said in a Dec. 1 press release.
Keown, who was executive vice president of Aleris and president of all of its North American operations, will continue to lead the new company into its future.
“Under the Commonwealth Rolled Products name, we are building on our legacy and tradition supplying rolled products to industrial markets while setting a committed course toward excellence in automotive body sheet,” Keown said in the same press release.
“It’s an exciting time for our workforce as we build on these strong foundations by further investment and upgrades at the Lewisport facility,” he said.
AIP calls itself an “operationally oriented private equity firm that makes control investments in industrial businesses serving domestic and global markets,” and many businesses in its portfolio are based in industry, many of which could be very complementary to the aluminum sheet produced in Lewisport, but the company has stated its intent to continue to pursue growth at the mill.
“AIP has committed to undertake significant investments in the Lewisport production facility, in addition to other improvements throughout the enterprise,” said Zac Carson, an AIP partner, in the press release. “These upgrades further solidify Commonwealth’s leadership position in common alloy and will make the Lewisport mill one of the leading producers of aluminum auto body sheet in North America.”
By Dave Taylor