STURTEVANT — The employees of Cree will soon be working for a company that prides itself on investing for the next generation.
On Friday morning, Durham, N.C.-based Cree, a manufacturer of LED lighting, announced a deal to sell its entire lighting business to Ideal Industries of Sycamore, Ill., for $310 million. Cree employees were informed in meetings that started at 8:30 a.m. here, as the news announcement was issued. The deal is expected to become final during the next quarter.
Later in the day, Meghan Juday, vice chairman and part-owner of Ideal, talked about the fourth-generation company’s philosophy and what Cree employees — including those at 9201 Washington Ave., where Cree has both manufacturing and administrative operations — can expect from the business’ next owners.
It was Juday’s great-grandfather J. Walter Becker who started Ideal Industries in 1916 when he developed a commutator stone that was used for elevator motor maintenance, Juday explained. He started out making the commutator stone in his mother’s kitchen, Juday said, and his company grew from there.
Today, Ideal has about 1,500 employees and is best known for its hand tools and supplies for the electrical market, Juday said. The company has operations in about 20 countries including multiple ones in the United States. It also manufactures in Canada, the United Kingdom, China, Australia and New Zealand, she said.
“We try to manufacture where our customer base is,” Juday said.
In acquiring Cree Lighting, Ideal will add about another 1,500 employees, she said, including roughly 1,000 in Sturtevant.
Even before the Cree purchase, Juday said, the owners of Ideal Industries already had affection for Wisconsin. There are about 50 family members, some of them live in the Badger State and others vacation here.
Juday said about Ideal’s coming acquisition of Cree Lighting: “I think it’s going to be good for (the employees). Our philosophy around acquisitions is that we buy, invest in resources and people and try to help them become even better. … I expect they will benefit.”
Ideal Industries has a philosophy of “patient capital,” Juday said — meaning, it invests for 10 years, 15 years, even for the generation.
“We will continue to invest in operations (in Sturtevant) and help them to reach maximum profitability.”
There is no plan to consolidate Cree Lighting operations into Ideal’s home base, Juday continued.
“We bought Cree because we like the Cree Lighting brand,” she said. “We have a decentralized portfolio of businesses and a very small corporate headquarters.”
However, Ideal will draw upon its existing talent and resources to help Cree Lighting in any ways that make sense, Juday said.
“We will use our resources from around the world to help, and to solve problems,” she said. “We have a lot of talent and expertise.”
Ideal also has what will be a very complementary sales force, Juday said, and can sell Cree Lighting products through its electrical distribution channel.
“I think it will be an additive partnership.”
Juday said Ideal has no plans to change the Cree name any time soon. “It’s a great brand for us,” she said. Although she acknowledged the name could potentially evolve over time, there are no plans for any immediate name change.
“We will continue to invest in operations (in Sturtevant) and help them to reach maximum profitability.” Meghan Juday, vice chairman of Ideal Industries