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HOWLAND Cleveland company buys Ajax Magnathermic plant



Published: Wed, September 11, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



A county commissioner credited a group of former Ajax workers for attracting the attention of the new owners.

By CYNTHIA VINARSKY

VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER

HOWLAND -- It's official: Park Ohio Holdings, a Cleveland company that reopened the shuttered Ajax Magnathermic plant on Overland Avenue N.E. in July, is the new owner.

Park Ohio bought the Howland plant and most of its other assets for $24 million in an auction Tuesday, said Ron Cozean, new president of Ajax.

Former owners closed the facility without notice in late June, idling about 145 workers. The manufacturer of induction melting, heating and heat-treating equipment was making money, employees said.

The plant has been operating with about 50 employees since mid-July when Park Ohio began working on a purchase plan. At that time workers said they had an agreement with Ajax lenders to continue limited operations until a sale could be arranged.

Five former Ajax executives -- Tom Illencik, Mike Faver, Craig Camens, Bill Vennette and Gerry Jackson -- approached Park Ohio after the shutdown and worked out an agreement to reopen.

Praise for initiative

"I have to take my hat off to those guys," said Joseph Angelo, a Trumbull County commissioner. "They took the initiative and found a buyer. Obviously, the company believed in the workers here and the product they have to offer."

He said the community is calling the five employees who proposed to Park Ohio the "fabulous five."

Another prospective buyer, New Jersey-based Inductotherm Industries, made a tentative offer for Ajax in the spring before the plant was closed. When Inductotherm rescinded its original offer and submitted a new one 50 percent lower, Ajax managers were forced to close the plant, according to documents the company filed in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

Founded in 1948, Ajax Magnathermic was bought several years ago by Citicorp Venture Capital of New York.

Howland trustees and county commissioners approved a 60 percent, 10-year tax abatement for Ajax in April. At that time, owners were promising to close operations in Kentucky, to move about $4.5 million in machinery, equipment and inventory to the Howland plant, and to add 40 to 50 jobs over the next two years.

A month later the company axed about 50 management and hourly employees, and the plant shutdown came about two months later.

Angelo said commissioners will have to meet with the new owners about their plans for the Kentucky plant before they can determine the status of the abatement.

Park Ohio is a publicly held company that has logistics, manufacturing and aluminum products divisions. Its stock trades on Nasdaq under the symbol PKOH.

vinarsky@vindy.com




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