Cutbacks not expected under new ownership at Anniston's Lee Brass
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Apr 20, 2012 | 4069 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An Anniston-based manufacturer is under new ownership, but no drastic changes to the company or cutbacks are expected.

Ken Dickson, the new president of Lee Brass in Anniston, confirmed Thursday that an Ohio-based group of private investors had purchased his company and that the transaction had closed April 10. Dickson said he was not at liberty to release the identity of the investor group. The cost of the purchase was also withheld.

“They requested to withhold their identity … they are not a public group,” Dickson said.

However, according to public records from the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office, a private, Ohio-based equity firm called The Reserve Group purchased Lee Brass. Also, The Reserve Group’s website lists that it acquired Lee Brass this year.

Attempts to reach The Reserve Group for comment Thursday were unsuccessful.

Dickson, who previously worked in Birmingham in general industry, said he was brought to Anniston to help Lee Brass’ management grow the company. Dickson said there were no current plans to downsize Lee Brass. He did not know if there were plans to hire more workers.

“The management here will remain with the company,” Dickson said. “We have to learn more about the business before we develop plans for the future.”

Although he would not discuss Lee Brass’ new owners, Dickson said they purchased the company because of the success it has had in recent years despite the recession.

“Lee Brass is a solid company composed of solid people with a good product,” Dickson said. “The new investors, working with the current Lee Brass management team, are excited for the opportunity to continue the positive momentum at Lee Brass and assist in its future growth.”

Among other products, Lee Brass produces lead-free pipes for drinking water systems. It currently has 198 permanent and 23 temporary employees — an improvement from the 178 employees it had in 2010.

According to its website, The Reserve Group is a family-based private equity firm formed in 1995. It specializes in the acquisition, management, revitalization and expansion of basic manufacturing companies.

Along with Lee Brass, The Reserve Group’s portfolio contains nine other companies, including manufacturers in Texas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Founded in 1917, Lee Brass pours 12 different copper-based alloys to serve several markets including marine, plumbing and industrial.

The marine segment serves the U.S. Navy shipbuilding and repair market. Lee Brass is the largest supplier of copper nickel fittings and flanges to the Navy.

The Plumbing and Industrial segment serves the housing, industrial and commercial markets. Lee Brass recently introduced its LEE FREE fitting product designed to meet new low-lead regulations for potable water systems.

Bruce Jameson, former CEO of Lee Brass and now executive vice president with a focus on sales, said the company has grown in recent years despite the recession due to efforts to diversify its product line and find additional customers like the Navy.

Lee Brass was not always so successful, however.

Lee Brass began to struggle in 2005 when its then parent company, Amcast Industrial Corp., filed for bankruptcy, Jameson said.

“Lee Brass didn’t file for Chapter 11, but our parent company filing didn’t help any,” Jameson said.

Amcast has since gone out of business.

At its lowest point, Lee Brass had shrunk to 165 employees. Jameson had previously worked for Lee Brass but was working with another company at the time of the bankruptcy.

He and two others were asked to come back to help Lee Brass survive, Jameson said.

“We worked together to turn the company around,” he said.

Star staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star

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